Prince of Wales Road will bounce back, nightlife stalwarts predict
- Credit: Archant
The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the usually bustling heart of Norwich's nightlife into "the land that time forgot".
With nightclubs and bars without the benefit of outdoor areas still more than a month away from being re-opened and further residential development on the horizon, the Prince of Wales Road area may never feel the same again.
However, two stalwarts of the city's night time economy say they are confident there is a way back for the venues along the street and that the future is bright for the late night entertainment industry.
For 23 years Glen Sarabi managed several venues in Norwich, including nightclubs Mantra and Truth, and he predicts there will be a "mass exodus of people" eager to get out once restrictions are fully lifted.
He said: "It will bounce back. Six months or so ago I might have given a different view but I really do think now people are just itching to get out and, for want of a better phrase, live their lives again.
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"I think for the first few months every Friday and Saturday night will feel like New Year's Eve.
"It has been phenomenally hard for people in the industry, but I think those that have been able to survive the period will reap the rewards at the end of it."
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Prince of Wales Road itself cuts a lonely figure, with several buildings available for lease or empty and its bars and clubs still bound by restrictions and unable to open.
Mr Sarabi said: "It is quite surreal to walk down at the minute, it almost feels like the land that time forgot. However, I know there is work going on behind the scenes to make places ready."
But with the end of the street closest to the railway station beginning to lean more towards a residential feel, Mr Sarabi can see the area having a different feel going forward.
Work has already started on converting the former Mercy nightclub into a luxury housing development, while plans have been lodged to convert a former office block on St Faith's Lane for residential use too, which could see up to another 32 households created.
And neighbouring King Street is also in the midst of a gentrification, with more than 400 homes on the way through the multi-million pound St Annes Wharf development and the conversion of the former Ferry Boat inn.
However, Mr Sarabi though does not see this being the end of the area as the heart of Norwich's nightlife.
He said: "People will have to move into the properties with open eyes, rather than like people who move next to a railway line and complain about the trains.
"I can only actually see it being a good thing for the future of the area. I can see it becoming like Shoreditch, with more high end bars, cafés and bistros where the people who are brought into the area make use of it.
"I really think and hope things will be harmonious between the businesses and people living in the area.
"The days of superclubs like Mercy are possibly gone, Mantra is the only actual club left among lots of bars, but the area can thrive."
And likewise, Andy Gotts, who runs Fluke and Envy and is chairman of Late Night Norwich, says he sees the future looking bright for the nighttime economy.
He said: "I do really think there are positive days ahead. We have been treated very fairly during the difficult time and the government has helped us to stay afloat.
"There will be an element of picking up where we left off, although there will be slight differences, but most people are champing at the bit to get back out and have a good time.
"And it has also been so long for us that there is a whole new generation of people that are itching to sample Norwich's nightlife, so I think things are really positive signs for us."