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Meet Dawn Hopkins, the landlady who left a life in London to pull pints in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 11:04 08 May 2019

Dawn Hopkins has been a landlady in Norwich for almost 20 years. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Dawn Hopkins has been a landlady in Norwich for almost 20 years. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

In the late 1990s, Dawn Hopkins was working in the IT department of a London commodities trader when she decided she no longer enjoyed the nine to five city life. Realising she needed a change, she decided to go travelling for two years before returning to her home city of Norwich to take on the running of a pub - the Ketts Tavern - with her then partner.

Dawn Hopkins has been a landlady in Norwich for almost 20 years. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodDawn Hopkins has been a landlady in Norwich for almost 20 years. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Now, almost 20 years later she is still pulling pints and is the proud landlady of the Rose Inn on Queen's Road.

Getting the word out about a new pub was hard before social media

Before taking on the Ketts Tavern, on Kett's Hill in 2000, Ms Hopkins had never worked behind a bar and although she knew the landlord life would be hard work (the reason for travelling for two years beforehand), she said she hadn't anticipated how non-stop it would be.

Dawn Hopkins has been a landlady in Norwich for almost 20 years. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodDawn Hopkins has been a landlady in Norwich for almost 20 years. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

She said: "We were very keen to open a pub within the community with lots of real ale.

"It worked really well for us and we were working really hard, but it was a hard slog to get people to know what we were doing.

"Obviously social media didn't exist then, so it was a case of leafleting, speaking to local people and relying on word of mouth [to get the word out]" she said.

"We did anticipate that it would be hard work, but what we probably didn't realise was how relentless it was, and if you go out anywhere else you are always researching," she said.

Dawn Hopkins has been a landlady in Norwich for almost 20 years. PICTURE: Jamie HoneywoodDawn Hopkins has been a landlady in Norwich for almost 20 years. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

How and when people drink has changed and pubs have had to adapt to survive

The smoking ban, supermarkets selling cheap alcohol and the advent of social media have all influenced how and when people drink which, for better or worse has meant pubs have had to change too.

"If you go back to 2000, [when people] wanted to buy cheap alcohol they would go over to Calais and do a beer run. When the smoking ban came into force it was more or less the same time supermarkets started offering cheaper alcohol," she said.

"In the olden days when we first started [running the Ketts Tavern] we had people who were in the routine of going to the pub after work and having a couple of drinks, it was a bit of a habit.

"Maybe back in 2000, it was more normal to have a few pints after the week and I'm not saying young people don't drink, I just think they're a bit more discerning about what they drink."

Ms Hopkins added that a more discerning customer had meant pubs had started to specialise, for example in craft beer as the Rose Inn does.

"[Nineteen years ago], when you went into any pub you would find similar products, some beers, spirits etc., but now pubs have had to specialise, so maybe with spirits, craft beer, people are choosing the pub they want to go to because of the products," she said.

Seeing people having a great time in your pub makes all the hard work worthwhile

The long hours mean the life of the landlord is not an easy one, but Ms Hopkins said seeing people enjoying themselves in her pub made the hard work worth it.

She said: "It's lovely when after the football we see people come back to the [Rose] or when you get a celebration and a party and people are enjoying themselves and I think, 'I've been able to help that happen'.

"It's always very nice for whatever reason when the pub bursts into song," she said.

Ms Hopkins said she also always tried to encourage her customers to talk to one another and enjoyed starting up conversations between punters: "I can be at the bar one day and there will be someone who works in an office next to someone who works in a completely different area. You get people from different walks of life and I just don't think that happens in other walks of life.

"If you have two people sitting at the bar and they don't know anyone I like to get a conversation going between them."

Norwich will always be a great place to drink

Over the past 12 months, Norwich has seen a number of pubs close or change hands but Ms Hopkins said despite difficult trading conditions she believed the city's pubs would survive.

She said: "Norwich has been a great place to drink for a number of years because it has a number of free houses. I think at the moment it's difficult, the economy is very difficult and I think there will be some more casualties but I also think a lot of places will stay open: there are a lot of landlords in the city who are still running their pubs and I think that will be the difference."

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