National Camra boss in Norwich

The national chairman of Camra (Campaign for Real Ale) endorsed the Evening News' Love Your Local campaign, as part of a whistle-stop tour of the region.

Colin Valentine was visiting the Norwich and Norfolk branch of Camra as part of its schedule of holding national executive meetings around the country.

After enduring a snowy trip down from Edinburgh, he chose to whet his whistle at the Vine pub/Thai restaurant in Dove Street in Norwich city centre, which he praised for reinventing itself after being closed.

The Vine, dubbed the smallest pub in Norwich, is marking its second anniversary and made it into the real ale lovers' bible, the Good Beer Guide 2011, for the first time this year, alongside 102 other Norfolk pubs.

Mr Valentine said: 'I wanted to visit The Vine because my regional director said there were some pubs in Norwich that had reopened after being closed, and were doing really well.

'It shows that when a pub closes it's not inevitable that it will never reopen again.'

Mr Valentine's message was all about diversifying to stay alive, and he praised the Evening News' Love Your Local campaign for highlighting the many ways pubs can benefit communities,

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He said: 'I think the LYL is an excellent idea. Alcohol gets such a bad press these days, and it's seen as the root of all evil.

'Pubs are the best place to drink real ale as they are a well regulated environment. Not everybody who wants to drink also wants to go for a kebab and have a fight in the town centre.'

He warned, however, that pubs could not just rely on punters coming through the doors without offering something different.

'Pubs have to offer something different these days to attract customers. If all you do is stock, say John Smiths and Carling Black Label, and you just have a Sky Sports screen in the corner, that's not going to attract more people.

'You need to do something different to get people in the doors. It's not like the 1970s when I started drinking, when all you had to do was open the doors to get people in. Selling real ales makes your pub a bit different and gives people a reason to visit.'

The national executive of Camra holds six regular meetings a year with four held around the country.

Mr Valentine said he had been looking forward to visiting Norwich, which he described as 'a good drinking town'. He also praised the number of top breweries in Norfolk.

'There are so many good breweries in Norfolk, with many within a radius of about 25 to 30 miles, and it's not just Woodfordes. And they are all working together to try and made a difference. Publicans can then back them by stocking their beer.

'Location is the zeitgeist today and people want to know the provenance of their food and drink. With beer travelling just 30 miles from breweries to pubs, it's also pretty green as well.'

The Evening News has been urging punters to return to pubs in our Love Your Local campaign.

To see more stories from the campaign, visit

Has your pub got something to celebrate? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email