New Love your Local ‘Pub of the Week’ feature
The Evening News' Love your Local Campaign enters a new phase today. While we will continue to feature individual LYL stories, we will also have a new weekly Love Your Local 'Pub of the Week' feature.
Every week we will focus on one particular pub in the area, talk to its landlords, and speak to the regulars about why they love it.
The first pub we are featuring is the popular Whalebone in Magdalen Road, at the bottom of St Clement's Hill in Norwich.
It is owned by Mike Lorenz, the managing director of Broadland Taverns Ltd, a Norwich-based independent company with 20 years of experience in the pub restaurant and leisure industry.
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BEHIND THE BAR
The landlords are Steve and Karen Fiske, who have run the pub for more than 15 years.
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Steve, 41, and Karen, 43, were married a year after taking over the pub in the mid-1990s, and still enjoy what they do.
When they took over the pub, Mr Fiske already had many years of experience working behind the bar at various Norwich pubs.
This included work at Refreshers, now a restaurant, the Hog in Armour and the Wild Man. His wife comes from a hotel and catering background, but both love the buzz they get from running a popular city watering hole.
Mr Fiske said: 'Coming here was a challenge but, thankfully, the pub is progressing and picking up more and more trade.
'One thing that we have always done is to make sure the pub looks great.
'We have won various competitions for best pub floral display. In the winter the pub is nice, clean and warm and it's cool in the summer.'
To keep up standards the couple have a tough training programme for members of staff.
'We have nine or 10 staff at the moment. We sit down with them and ask them what they want when they go out. And the answer is that people want a smile. We also get the staff to remember the customers' names and what they drink.
'We are also dog friendly here, which is quite unusual. We keep biscuits behind the bar so you often get the dogs dragging the customers in.'
The pub is also keen to attract female punters and recently had the ladies' toilet refurbished.
It also attracts punters through its annual beer festival, which has been running for 15 years, and Old Catton Cricket Club, whose president is Mike Lorenz, is based at the pub. It also hosts a charity golf day every July.
Mr Fiske said new customers were always surprised when they found out how big the pub is.
He said: 'I love it when people come into the pub for the first time. When most people come in they enter the front bar, and they don't realise that the pub is big at the back. We have a lounge, conservatory and terrace, and people go 'Wow' when they see it, because they don't know it's there.'
The couple, who do not have any children, say they manage to have a couple of holidays each year.
Mr Fiske added: 'I love Cuba. I love the people and the fishing. It's the fantastic people that make it. I also love Costa Rica.'
History of the pub and building:
When the Whalebone was built around 1840, it was situated on the northern tip of the built-up area of Norwich.
The original building incorporated a malt house, a brewery and stables.
Mr Fiske said: 'There was a tram station off Denmark Road nearby and this was the end of the city. Beyond this were arable farms, so the pub was the last stop on the tram.'
Believe it or not, the pub got its name from the large whaling community then living in the area.
Mr Fiske said this community worked on ships out of Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
He added: 'There used to be a real whalebone at the pub but that is now at Sewell Park College, formerly Blyth Jex school in Norwich. There's a map on the pub wall of what the area was like in the 19th century, and beyond the pub, it's all countryside.'
The Whalebone has many historic features inside including a carefully restored back bar and counter fitted by Bullard & Son, one of Norwich's former brewers.
In more recent times, Mr Fiske said that they were one of the first pubs in the city to incorporate an outside smoking area, a few months before the nationwide smoking ban was introduced, which gave them a headstart over other city pubs.
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 www.eveningnews24.co.uk/loveyourlocal.
Next week's Pub of the Week is the Parson Woodforde in Weston Longville.
<t> Do you think your pub has the history, character and regulars to be our 'Pub of the Week'? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vox pop with regulars on why they Love Their Local:
Jonathan Frost, 22, from Thorpe St Andrew, works off-shore and has been a regular at the Whalebone for about two years.
He said: 'Quite a lot of my friends live around here, which is one of the reasons I come here. But it's mainly becase of the ales they serve here. I really like real ale.'
His friend Mike Kingston, 23, who also works off-shore but lives near the pub in Denmark Road, said he also appreciated the real ales on tap, but also liked the Sky Sports shown and the friendly atmosphere.
He said: 'They serve good beer, show the football on TV, and there's always a nice and friendly atmosphere. What else do you need from a pub?'
Husband and wife Martin, 65, and Lindsay James, 60, from nearby Ayslebury Close, have been regulars ever since the Fiskes took over the pub about 15 years ago.
They love meeting up with the friends they have made at the pub and the lively banter.
Mr James, a funeral director, said: 'There's always a nice early crowd that comes in just after work. It's always warm sitting near the fire and whenever they show sport on the TV, we watch that.
'The main reason is probably because they keep a good cellar and we like the people that come in here.'
Mrs James, a residential care manager, added: 'There's never any trouble and Steve does not tolerate any bad language.'
Even barmaid Vicki Collis, who used to drink at the pub before working there, said it was a good environment to work in. 'I would not like working in a rougher pub,' she said.