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Keep Loving Your Local, say Norwich pubs

PUBLISHED: 11:00 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 07:55 02 July 2010

The Woolpack pub.

The Woolpack pub.

David Bale

The Evening News launched the Love Your Local campaign last February, amid concerns that too many pubs were closing.

The Evening News launched the Love Your Local campaign last February, amid concerns that too many pubs were closing.

We wanted to help save a great Norwich tradition - the local pub - by highlighting all that is good about them, including the positive impact they have on the community.

Throughout the campaign we have set out the reasons why pubs are important and why we need to save them for future generations.

Norwich has been renowned for its pubs for centuries, and was once famed for having a pub for every day of the year.

But at the start of last year the situation was so bad that there were real fears that the traditional pub, as we know it, could soon be a thing of the past.

In the years before our campaign started, dozens of Norwich pubs closed and were either turned into flats or knocked down. Some, such as the Earl of Leicester in Dereham Road, were knocked down and then the derelict site was left to rot.

The effects of the smoking ban, which devastated the trade at many city pubs, and the availability of cheaper alcohol at supermarkets, has made it harder for publicans to make a living.

Increased rates, government hikes on taxes at consecutive budgets and unhelpful pub companies in charge of many watering holes have also whittled down the number of pubs still in the city.

This was compounded at the start of last year with the UK recession, which hit customers in their pockets, and made them even less likely to visit their locals.

More and more people chose to drink at home, which forced pubs to diversify to survive.

However, the number of pubs in the city has remained hovering around the 150 mark, despite all the problems.

That may be a long way short of the legendary 'pub for every day of the year' seen in the city before the second world war, but it is still a high percentage for our population.

With the UK economy picking up, publicans in Norwich said today that things were looking a bit brighter, but they were not out of the woods just yet.

Andy Bolton, landlord at the York Tavern in Leicester Street, said his pub had seen an increase in trade in December and January compared to the same period last year.

He said: “Everybody seems to be fairly upbeat compared to last winter when everyone was scared about what was going to happen, and how many pubs were going to close.

“The talk in the pub seems to be chatty and people's spirits seem to be higher than a year ago. Let's hope that pubs in general have a better year than 2009.”

Chris Higgins, landlord at the Trafford Arms, was less optimistic about the year ahead, but said the most positive thing that could happen to pubs in the city this year was further success at Carrow Road.

He said: “We have noticed more Norwich City fans coming into the pub after games, and feeling really happy and positive.

“Norwich winning is going to have more impact on how pubs do than any government statistics telling them the economy is improving.”

However, he said brewers had already started putting up beer prices this year, which would have a knock-on effect on the price of a pint in pubs, and predicted a tough 2010 for publicans.

Phil Cutter, landlord of the Murderers pub in Timberhill, in the city centre, praised The Evening News' campaign for raising awareness of how tough it has been for publicans in the last year.

He said: “Any support for the pub industry is greatly appreciated. Your campaign highlights the fact that there are still pubs closing down across the country, and it's important for people to support them.”

David Turnbull, who owns the Blue Boar in Wroxham Road, Sprowston, said it was “fantastic” the local paper featured stories about pubs.

He said: “Most days you look in The Evening News and there's a story about pubs in it.

“And I think politicians are finally realising how important pubs are, although it's too late for many, as they are still closing at an alarming rate.”

As reported, earlier this month the UK edged out of recession, unemployment unexpectedly fell, and new figures released by the British Pub and Beer Association revealed that sales were showing some signs of recovery.

The next few months will determine how strong the recovery is and whether the pub industry benefits from punters having more money in their pockets.

In December 2009, publicans said they were keeping their fingers crossed that the 2010 World Cup in South Africa would boost their coffers this year.

Many publicans will also be looking forward to a long, hot summer to follow one of the worst winters on record.

To survive the recession many pubs have also taken advantage of the increased popularity of real ale beers by holding beer festivals, which have become a regular feature on the calendar across the city.

And pubs that survived last year will hope they now have the guile and experience to see through another tough year.

Whatever happens, The Evening News will continue to publicise new pubs, clubs andbars that pop up in the city, and urge punters to either “use or lose” their locals.

For more stories about the Evening News' Love Your Local Campaign visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk/loveyourlocal.

Have you got a pub story to kick-start the second year of our campaign? Ring reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.

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