Norwich pub landlady meets Labour leaders at business reception

Norwich pub landlady Dawn Hopkins is hoping that her links with Labour's shadow chancellor Ed Balls will keep the plight of struggling publicans foremost in his mind.

Mrs Hopkins, who runs two Norwich pubs, the Rose in Queens Road and the Ketts Tavern in Ketts Hill, plus the Norwich Bear brewing company, was invited to Tuesday's first Labour Party annual business reception by Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins.

Mrs Hopkins was heavily involved in the successful City of Ale event in Norwich earlier in the year, and Mr Perkins was due to take part in the pub debate at the event, before being taken ill.

This week's event was the start of Labour's bid for the business vote and was attended by three of the party's big guns, leader Ed Miliband, shadow chancellor Ed Balls and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, who all spoke at the reception.

The Labour Party is seeking to reach out to supporters in the business community and some of the biggest companies in the country were represented in the 500-plus crowd at the Chartered Accountants' Hall in central London, including other publicans and brewers.

Afterwards, Mrs Hopkins, who is keen to act as an ambassador for the pub trade in Norwich, said: 'I'm hoping my links with Ed Balls, who is a big Norwich City fan, will help to keep the pub industry in his mind.

'And he said he would try to watch more Norwich City games live on our TV screen in the Rose next season, which will give me a chance to talk to him. He was much in demand at the reception so we just had the chance to talk about the games he watched at Carrow Road last season, and we shared a singalong of 'On The Ball City' in Norfolk dialect.'

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She also renewed ties with Mr Perkins, who is a big advocate of the pub industry, and met other industry figures including publicans and brewers from across the country.

Labour leaders told the meeting that they were pro-business and called for more figures from the business world to stand for the party at the next general election.

After his speech, Mr Miliband told the Evening News to call his office to look into it backing the Evening News' Love your Local campaign, which aims to get people back inside pubs.

He said the survival of community pubs was a very important issue especially the problems associated with tied pub companies making it hard for tenants to survive.

David Wilson, from the British Beer and Pub Association, who attended the meeting, backed the Evening News' Love your Local campaign. He said: 'Anything that helps local pubs we would definitely endorse.'

Mrs Hopkins is particularly interested in getting politicians to discuss issues surrounding business rates, the beer duty escalator, supermarkets selling cheap booze, and the problems she and other publicans are facing with the increased costs of employing staff.

She said: 'There are several issues I'm keen to talk about. One is the need to get a level playing field with supermarkets, which can sell drinks at much cheaper prices than pubs.

'We also have an issue with business rates. Pubs are charged differently to any other businesses, which is unfair.

'And the biggest cost for businesses like my own is now employing staff, which needs looking at. It seems like it costs more now to take on staff, while the amount of money we have got coming in, is going down.'

The Evening News has been urging people to return to pubs in our Love your Local campaign.

To see more stories from the campaign visit loveyourlocal

Have you got a story about your landlord/landlady in Norwich? Call David Bale on 01603 772427 or email