Norwich landlady Dawn Hopkins carved out new career as ambassador for the pub trade

Evening News Original, Dawn Hopkins, landlady of the Ketts Tavern. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Evening News Original, Dawn Hopkins, landlady of the Ketts Tavern. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Norwich landlady Dawn Hopkins has carved out a new career as an ambassador for the pub trade. She spoke to reporter DAVID BALE about juggling being a landlady, mother of two, and pub ambassador. Norwich landlady Dawn Hopkins has spoken so eloquently of what it's like to run a pub that she has recently become something of a spokeswoman for the industry.

Last year she was the only publican in the UK to address a rally in London following a mass parliamentary lobby calling for MPs to back the great British pub.

It did not faze her speaking in front of more than 1,000 Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) members, brewers and publicans at the event, which called for the controversial beer tax escalator – which puts 2pc above inflation each year on the cost of a pint – to be scrapped.

She also attended the first Labour Party annual business reception in central London, which was also attended by Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls, a keen Norwich City supporter.

She has also helped promote Norwich through the City of Ale event, now in its third year, and said her ambassadorial role is something she's happy to continue.

'It's ridiculous that so many pubs have closed. It's not a good situation for pubs as a whole. If we can get a group of pubs in Norwich working together, that would be good.'

She has also been a keen supporter of The Evening News' Love Your Local campaign, which aims to get people back into pubs.

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But while she may have had a lifetime love of pubs and beer, before she and husband Kevin bought the Ketts Tavern in Ketts Hill in 2000, neither had so much as pulled a pint before.

Born in Norwich she mainly grew up in Leicestershire where her parents ran a Little Chef, before she returned to the city to study A-levels in business, communication studies and art at City College.

But after that she was back off again, studying at college in London and spending a decade in the capital.

'I ended up as IT helpdesk manager at Glencore in the commodities trade,' she said.

After London, she married Kevin in 1997, and they spent two years travelling the world.

'We went everywhere – to the States, South America, New Zealand, southeast Asia, Nepal, India and spent a year working in Australia,' she said.

And when they decided to take on a pub, they were open to moving anywhere in the UK to do it.

But with family and friends in the Norwich area, the Ketts Tavern was too good to miss.

Three years later they bought the Rose in Queens Road, and they run both pubs now. They are also working towards having their own Norwich Bear microbrewery up and running at The Rose in April.

She said: 'Part of the reason we went into the pub business was that we wanted to work for ourselves. We liked pubs and beer, so we put the two together and came up with this. But on the day we opened at the Ketts we had never pulled a pint before between us. It was a baptism of fire. We only knew pubs from the customer's point of view. Apart from doing a course to get the licence, we were fairly green.'

It's the social side of the business she enjoys most.

'It's good having people having a good time in your pub. I love having happy people around, which is often the case when alcohol is involved. It's long and relentless hours, but part of that I like as well. It's flexible with the kids, so I can go to all the school plays. That's the benefit of not having a nine-to-five job.

'But the financial side is difficult, and it's a lot of work and not a lot of money at the end of it. And weekends are hard, so getting up on Monday mornings with the kids, can be tough.

'But I like doing the blogs and the marketing side of running a pub. I like expressing myself on social media sites. It allows me to be fairly creative.'

The family also live at the Ketts Tavern so when she wakes up she looks out of the window on to Mousehold Heath – and the view from the top of the hill is her favourite spot in Norwich.

Meanwhile, this month is set to be pivotal for the pub trade, with the budget imminent, but she's not holding out much hope that things will get any better.

'I'm not sure anything will happen with the annual beer duty increase, which we are all campaigning to get scrapped. But it's good that there has been so much publicity on it.'

There was talk last week that David Cameron's plans to bring in a minimum price per unit of alcohol in supermarkets was potentially dead in the water, because of the possible impact it would have on hard-up families.

While Mrs Hopkins said she's not sure minimum pricing is the right route to go down, she thinks something's got to give.

The hospitality trade was rocked in 2011 when the government introduced an increased VAT rate of 20pc, and the industry has been lobbying hard for a reduced rate of 5pc VAT to be introduced for restaurants, pubs and hotels, to bring it more into line with our neighbours in the European Union.

She added: 'Some people have suggested introducing the 5pc VAT on the hospitality trade, which could be good for the economy. I would also like to take on more staff here, but it would take too much money out of the business.'

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