Hi there ! I’m Sue and with a group of friends, Gracia, Patrice and Philippe, we are hoping to buy the former bar/restaurant in a small village called Ponteyraud in the region of Périgord in France. As in most rural areas, there are fewer and fewer places where people can meet and have a chat over a coffee or a beer. So many bars and restaurants have closed down around here, largely due to the increasingly complicated regulations and standards imposed on hotellery activities and increased prices in consequence.
We want to re-open this bar/café/restaurant as a cooperative (“association” in French), run for and by its members. We already have the support of the mayor and a lot of people from Ponteyraud and surrounding villages. With a band of volunteers, we want the bar/café to be open all day and evening, accessible to all, and also a centre for many different activities, from walking groups, gardening club (there is a 400 sq. meter vegetable garden), dance, singing, whatever the members want to do, to individual activities such as using the PC or using fitness equipment.
The bar is warm and attractive and there is also a large room suitable for occasional meals, quizzes or other group activities.
This region is quite international. There are quite a lot of Brits, Dutch, Belgians, Swiss and Italians who live here permanently with some more exotic nationalities thrown in. We want this centre to be a place where different communities and language groups can mix and enjoy each other’s differences as well as find common interests.
Clearly, this is an ambitious project. Our small group is currently trying to raise the money to buy the building. We are going to get a bank loan but this will not cover the whole cost and so we will need further funds. We are currently setting up a crowdfunding appeal. Watch this spot for more information! Meantime, you can contact any of us (in French, English or German) on firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps you would like to volunteer, or have an idea for an activity, or just want to say hi or wish us good luck! We would love to hear from you.
Main points from the public meeting at Ponteyraud on Monday 25th March
On Monday 25th March, there was a meeting at the « mairie » in Ponteyraud where we presented the project to friends and neighbours from Ponteyraud and communes nearby. There were a lot of good questions so here are some answers in case you could not come to the meeting.
What state is the building in? Will it need expensive repairs before the café can open?
In general, we believe that the construction of the building is sound but we recognize that the roof will need attention in the mid-to-long term. We are assured that there are no leaks at the moment. We hope to replace part of the roof each year over 4 or 5 years, hopefully starting 2 or 3 years from now when we will have constituted a fund for this purpose.
You are going to need a lot of equipment to set up the café. How will you fund it?
The current owner has promised to leave us some equipment, e.g. tables and chairs, glasses, cutlery and crockery etc. We shall need some white goods but have been promised some donations already. We have already started buying some specialized equipment secondhand e.g. coffee machine. We are riveted to “Le Bon Coin” for announcements of gifts and low priced goods in the local area!
Does the association own the building?
The association and the building ownership have 2 separate and different legal structures. The building will be owned by an “SCI”, “société civile immobilière”, basically a real-estate company. This type of organization is frequently used by couples and families to buy a building and pay for it over time. The bar-restaurant building at Ponteyraud comprises 3 distinct areas, 2 apartments and the bar-restaurant. The SCI will rent out the 2 apartments which gives some income towards a possible loan or building maintenance fund. The association will rent the bar, former restaurant, kitchen and associated space from the SCI. The association is a non-profit organization under the 1901 French law and will be managed completely separately from the SCI.
Have you done the financials? Have you planned for the maintenance of the building?
Yes, we prepared business plans for the SCI and the association with provisional accounts for both for the first 3 years based on prudent assumptions. That’s how we know that it will work.
So why won’t the banks lend the money to you for the purchase?
It has been extremely annoying. We have seen 6 or 7 banks. We got very strong local backing from one of them only to be turned down at regional level by someone described as “a difficult character at the best of times”. Humph! In short, we are all 60 plus or minus a bit and our age has counted against us for two main reasons. Firstly, personal health insurance of the borrowers is very important in France and it increases rapidly with age. Further, they do not like lending to a SCI run by a non-family group stating that we might fall out. They seem to have conveniently forgotten that couples and family groups fall out from time to time, witness the divorce rate…. There were all sorts of other reasons, excuses of little substance – they just can’t be bothered with something different.
However, if we can raise by crowdfunding a solid part of the sum required, we may be able to borrow the rest. Unfortunately, most banks have a rule that “once refused, no further application will be accepted” so we will have to search hard for another bank to approach.
How will the café be staffed?
It is legally acceptable for an association to have employees but, for cost reasons and in the spirit of a “café associatif”, this café will be run by volunteers. We already have people who are willing to spend 1, 2 or 3 hours there per week, sometimes 1 day per week, to make it work. Yes, it’s going to be a lot to organise but “si on veut, on peut!
How does the crowdfunding site work?
The site “HelloAsso” is a legal crowd funding platform. It collects money from donors and then pays that money into the bank account of the association monthly. Crowdfunding can only be carried out for a certain time period. For us, the first period runs until mid-May (2019). We can ask for an extension if we feel that we need it. Note that each gift is acknowledged by a formal receipt which can be used to obtain tax credit on the next revenue declaration if you pay tax in France. The rate of tax credit is high. For each 100 euros donated, you will get 66 euros of tax credit, i.e. your final tax bill be reduced by 66 euros (up to the limit of 20% of your taxable income).
What happens if we give money to the crowdfunding site and then it all falls through?
If the project does not take off, then all the gifted money will be paid back to the donors.
But of course we want it to work! And we hope that you will help us! Please go to:https://www.helloasso.com/associations/les-croqu-en-double/