In different kind of areas in the Netherlands the population is decreasing because of the agglomeration of cities in the western part of the Netherlands. In the provinces Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe (all located in the north of the Netherlands) there are quite a lot of these ‘shrinking’ areas. The inhabitants of ‘shrinking’ villages are affected by this demographic trend because of a decrease of services and facilities in their environment, including the local pubs. Beside of the inhabitants, it also affects the tourism in this area. The geographic area is the northern part of the Netherlands. The geographic community are the inhabitants of these area who live in (small) villages. Our organization owns 6 pubs in this area. Our organization is a foundation with an idealistic objective: To improve viability of rural areas in the north of the Netherlands. The targeted community is the very essence of our existence. 


The social challenge we want provide is about pubs in small villages. The ‘Village cafes’ (Local Pubs) have a social function in these small communities. Unfortunately a lot pub entrepreneurs are not able to maintain a profitable exploitation and are forced to shut down. The consequences are vacancy, sometimes depletion of characteristic buildings and a decrease of social interaction in these communities. 

Not only the social aspect is a problem, also the historical value is important for the identity of a village. Often the village pub is situated in the old center of a village and is a characteristic (monumental) object. 

Due to the arrival of community centers (2d half of 20th century) the village pubs experience competition from these centers who are mostly operated by volunteers. The centers are often built on the outskirts of the village and don’t have an attractive appearance for tourists. 
Our organization owns a few village pubs on the countryside. We tried to make them more sustainable by adding more functions to the pub like a small shop or sanitation for tourists to increase the volume of business. The main problem is the attitude of the inhabitants towards these pubs. When you ask people in these villages if they worry about the survival of these pubs, they do. But they don’t feel the urge to create activities in the pubs or try to support these entrepreneurs, because they think it’s a commercial enterprise. It is indeed a commercial enterprise, however we need to help each other and cooperate to stay strong and the preserve this heritage. 

It is our believe that the village pubs are an important part of the identity of a village. It is the heart of a village. Just like the church. If a pub is shut down, it’s not likely that it will be reversed opened again in the future. It is also our believe that in the (near) future these historic and social elements of a village pub will be appreciated again as important heritage and a binding element in a society. 

We want to preserve village pubs in the north of the Netherlands. We believe these pubs have an important social function and are most of the time historical buildings which are very important for the DNA of a village. To keep the village pubs alive we added extra functionalities to the pub like a shop, a museum or a snack bar. We also tried to train the entrepreneurs and we try to persuade the inhabitants to ‘adopt’ the pub. Still, a lot of pubs are closing, so we need more solutions to preserve this heritage:

  • Making inhabitants co-owner of the challenge to preserve local pubs.
  • Creating awareness that local pubs are important enough to invest in.
  • Teaching entrepreneurs to innovate en be creative to stay in business.


DBF is a small organization in the north of The Netherlands and is independent of governmental grants. We lease and construct business premises, often by change of use of historical heritage. We also help villages to make smart decisions about their community real estate. Often there are too many (real estate) objects and too little volunteers to run it. Due to shrinkage it is possible to combine and cooperate! We help villages in this process. Our organization is founded in 1990 and since then we have been building up our expertise on this subject. Since 2015 we are the experts of reuse of historic heritage in the north of Netherlands DBF owns 6 village pubs. Our champions are Antje Hijma, real estate specialist, and Joanneke Haasbroek, project manager. Antje is responsible for the real estate and the tenants, Joanneke works on projects in villages together with the inhabitants to make smart decisions about their public real estate in the village. 


We are a small organization. We can deliver our expertise on the subject. In the past we bought some bars. however at the moment it is very hard to get mortgage on these objects. We have our network in the north with several municipalities and provinces. We know how to connect with the inhabitants of the villages. But it’s not enough to make these pubs economically healthy. We hope we will learn about an approach that will help to preserve these pubs. We provide a one employee 1 day a week to work with the solution provider. We will create a special page for this challenge on our website and use our social channels (twitter and newsletter). We will approach our entrepreneurs in our local pub to cooperate and choose one for a pilot if that’s a part of the solution.


The Challenge Owner


DBF is a small organization in the north of The Netherlands and is independent of governmental grants. We lease and construct business premises, often by change of use of historical heritage. We also help villages to make smart decisions about their community real estate.