Karaoke, Assets of Community Value, surveys, the cost of refurbishment, whether one is needed at all, the going rate for a decent chef and a great general manager, press coverage, getting a local MP involved, a barn dance, food standards, staff training. The list goes on...

I'm at a Save the Duke committee meeting and all of the above come up as a dozen residents in the Suffollk village of Somersham talk about their plans to take the currently closed Duke of Marlborough into community ownership.

And they are quickly finding out that, as romantic as the notion of saving a pub is, the process and work involved is a lengthy, head-scratching and time-sapping slog.

The freehouse has been closed for a few months, with the previous licensees taking retirement before managing to sell the pub for a price they were happy with.

The village has set up a Community Benefit Society with the aim of raising the funds, buying the pub outright and having it trading by the end of the summer.

Sarah Caston, a doctor by trade, was inspired to lead the campaign when it became clear that the only pub in the
village her family have lived in for 60 years was in peril.

"I'm a pub person and the idea of the pub going really saddened me", she explains. "The pub has always been an integral part of the village and community life. It is a great focal point for people to get to know each other and for having somewhere to go."

She admits that raising the money (around £400,000 is needed to buy the pub and leave a little change for working capital) is a huge task, and that at times the project can be overwhelming, but she is also upbeat and encouraged by the desire of residents to make it happen.

"I was really impressed with how much interest there was. We had 150 people come to our first open meeting and there is now a committee of around 12 people who are willing to come to all of the meetings," she says.

But here's the bad news for any would-be community publicans thinking of embarking on this journey; the chances of success are slim. According to Pub is the Hub some 70 per cent of community ownership projects fail to come to fruition.

On the plus side there is increasing expertise and support available from organisations such as Pub is the Hub, the Plunkett Foundation and CAMRA.

There are also around 60 pubs that once looked doomed, now open again and trading in innovative ways. These perhaps provide the greatest inspiration for the likes of the Save the Duke team.

Back in 2011 The Fleece Inn in Hillesley, Gloucestershire, was facing the threat of extinction until the village got together and set up an Enterprise Investment Scheme. They ended up with 120 shareholders buying a stake in the pub — those with more shares have more power when it comes to voting on decisions.

Voices of the village

Lance Doughty, a key player in the campaign, says the structure is not perfect but works "well enough". He adds: "Getting the place ready to open with 120 different opinions was not easy. Just that phrase 'getting ready to open' meant different things to people. There was some friction at first and there were times it didn't look good."

But this was short-lived. The pub is now open and "turning a small profit" although shareholders will have to wait a little longer to see a return on their investment. Lance admits it has been a bumpy path at times with the board under-estimating both their costs and revenue for year one and the amount of time it would involve.

"Some weeks it feels like directors are putting in half a day to a day of voluntary time and sometimes it is just an hour or two. But it is 100 per cent worth it, despite the struggles, to see that pub open and people coming together," he says.

Back in Somersham, one of the big topics of the night is how the relationship between the pub team and the share-holders would work.

The Fleece has managed this by making one of its half-dozen board members an operations director who deals directly with the manager. According to the manager himself, Andrew Jones, the structure works well and he doesn't feel as if he has 120 bosses breathing down his neck every time he makes a decision.

He tells Inapub: "I did wonder before I started how it would work with everyone wanting to have a say. But it has been fine, better than some of the other places I have worked in. There can be an element of compromise, for example over the menu, but you just get on with it. Of course you get locals with opinions on how things should be run, but that is no different from any pub, community-owned or not."

The Fleece and Duke of Marlborough projects are of a similar structure, but buying pubs outright is not the only option for community groups. Only a few miles up the road from the Duke, you will find volunteers manning the bar and running events at The Punch Bowl in Battisford. The pub was bought outright by a couple in the village and they effectively lease it back to the community.

A manager is employed and a team of volunteers tackle a to-do list that includes serving pints, negotiating prices, maintaining the property and securing grants.
Bryan Hilton, secretary of the Punch Bowl's volunteer committee, says the model was the most appropriate for the pub.

"Because of the situation with the viability of pubs across the country our advice is to not go down the road of buying the freehold and to rent it if you can," he says. "The majority of people who work at the Punch Bowl don't get paid for it. That's where the spirit of the community comes in. Without the volunteers we would have to close down."

Bryan estimates the board of directors have put in something like 10,000 hours of voluntary work in the last few years. The pub turns over around £150,000 and it now makes a small surplus.

"It's a lovely idea and people get very enthusiastic about it but the reality is that it is a huge endeavour," he says.

However, just like Lance, he feels the reward is in seeing a vital community asset thriving. "There is a huge amount of job satisfaction and by doing this I have got to know more people in the village. People do encourage us and they are grateful.

"Years ago we used to have a retail shop and a garage as well as the pub. With the pub now we are getting some of that sense of community back."

It is a long journey ahead, but the Save the Duke team will hope to be toasting a similar success.

Types of Community Membership

There's more than one way to run a community pub from private ownership to various share schemes, all with different benefits. Here are the headlines but for more detail visit www.pubisthehub.org/community-ownership

Community Interest Company
Designed for social enterprises who want to use profits for social good

Enterprise Investment Schemes
Thirty per cent tax relief available but no single investor can hold more than 30 per cent of shares

Co-ops and Community Benefit Societies
Typically run by large groups to re-invest back into a community

Private Purchase of a Community Asset
Generally owned by a smaller group who engage with the community

Public Work Loans Board
Enables a parish council to take on the asset

Companies Limited by Guarantee
Similar to a private company but run not for profit