WINSFORD hotspot De Bees is set to cease operating as a nightclub and may face closure altogether unless £400,000 can be raised by the community.

The venue, which has been at the centre of the town’s nightlife and music scene for 22 years, was dealt a devastating blow recently when Enterprise Inns, which owned the building as a landlord, decided to dispose of the property.

De Bees owner Damon Horrill says he entered into negotiations with Enterprise Inns and has now stumped up the deposit for the property.

And he says it was pivotal to act fast and stop the building from getting into the hands of housing developers.

Damon said: “The risk of course was that greedy property developers out there would nick the opportunity from the community with an eye to making easy money, demolishing it to build flats. But we now have little over a month to complete and a lot of money to raise.”

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The Winsford businessman wants to turn the building into a community-owned enterprise, and is looking to raise the money needed to keep the venue open.

In his business plan, Damon says the building will focus on being a performance venue, café bar, rehearsal space, cinema and bingo hall, as well as a venue to host exhibitions, classes and workshops, makers markets and network meetings.

“De Bees real value is not as a nightclub but as a venue for staging our creative community,” said Damon. “It has been at the heart of a blossoming music scene for 20 years providing a platform as well as a stage for luminaries such as The Levellers, Cage The Elephant, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Tim Burgess and comedians like John Bishop, Alan Carr and Jason Mansfield.

“With high rents, the nightclub bit was always a requirement and forced us to compromise in many ways over the years but in community ownership it wouldn’t have to be that way.”

The plan is to change the venue’s name to The Hive and it will be run by The Hive Live Ltd, established as a Charity Community Benefit Society.

Damon explained: “The Hive was established in 2011 to further the festivals that had begun in De Bees. First was On The Fringe on The Marina Island which is now into its 10th year, then came The Off Cut and Salt Town’s Rally.

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“The not-for-profit community business has been looking for a base to run a full-time venue for several years since developing and trialling an innovative new model where students on work experience participate fully in every aspect of staging events or running projects under mentorship from locally rooted experts.

“The trial was carried out at Winsford Academy and over a few months we helped 100 students to create, design and stage an event they called The Big Bang in the Lifestyle Centre.”

Due to its work with students, The Hive is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority as a Community Benefit Society with charitable objectives, and therefore is eligible to apply for a grant which could match up to £100,000 raised through community shares.

Damon says that of £400,000 that needs to be raised, £300,000 is to buy the property and £100,000 is for refurbishment. If the £100,000 matched funding grant is successful, it would leave £200,000 that needs to be found in the coming weeks. A community share scheme is now in the process of being set up.

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A spokesperson from EI Publican Partnerships said: “As part of our on-going business, we do from time to time identify a site that may no longer have a long-term future in our estate. After careful consideration, the decision has been made to sell the freehold of Dee Bees with the transaction now progressing.”