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What's in store for Norwich's pubs in 2012?

Landlady Sally Mann at the Cottage Pub, Silver Road, Norwich.
Picture: Denise Bradley

Landlady Sally Mann at the Cottage Pub, Silver Road, Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant © 2011

Pub landlords in Norwich said they enjoyed a better 2011 than 2010, but said trading conditions were still tough and there were difficult times ahead.

Countless pubs across the region closed in 2010 and while several others shut their doors during 2011, many other businesses have reopened.

The government has also started to get tough on the major pub companies that run many of the region’s watering holes.

And there is even hope that maybe next year something will be done about supermarkets having what is perceived to be an unfair advantage of being able to sell drink at incredibly cheap prices.

Norwich publicans also benefited from the knock-on effect of the Canaries playing in the Premiership, with bumper crowds attending screenings of the club’s matches across the city.

The first ever City of Ale event was also a great success with 31 pubs and 35 breweries involved. Plans to make 2012’s event even better are well under way.

Next year will also see the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the European Football Championships and the London Olympics, plus many other events that publicans hope will bring the punters back.

There will also be another chance for one Norwich pub to be crowned the Evening News’ Pub of the Year, following in the footsteps of the Coach and Horses in Thorpe Road, which was 2011’s winner, after it received more than 130 nominations from customers in the competition. However, with the UK economy remaining in crisis and no let-up in bad news coming from the Eurozone, no-one is taking anything for granted.

Bob Cameron, landlord at the Coach and Horses, said that while winning the award had given them a shot in the arm, times were still hard.

“You have got to be good to survive and it’s the survival of the fittest, in a way,” he said. “Breweries will be putting up prices again early next year and who knows what the government will do in the budget, so I think we should give it another year before getting that optimistic about the future.”

Kevin Hopkins, landlord at the Rose in Queens Road and the Kett’s Tavern in Ketts Hill, is also expecting another tough year in 2012.

He said: “I think next year we can expect much of the same.

“It’s a genuinely tough economic climate. There have been little snippets that the government may do something with minimum pricing.

“That is our major problem, the price supermarkets charge for drink, which we continue to bleat on about. That would be a positive if minimum pricing came in.

“As for ourselves, we have been diversifying, and brewing our beer for 18 months now, and we are looking at installing a micro-brewery at the Rose next year, and looking for different markets. We think we need to be ahead of the game. We have invested in satellite TV to show the Norwich games.

“We are cautiously optimistic about 2012, because of the work we have put in this year, but we don’t expect people to suddenly start pouring back into pubs.

“But, personally, we are more optimistic about 2012 than we were a year ago, partly because of the work we have put in, and because we are a freehold. But we are not more optimistic about the pub sector in general, especially leased pubs.”

The general consensus among publicans in the city seems to be that landlords have to put in the work to survive and come up with new ideas to keep customers happy.

Toni Fry, landlady at the Kings Arms in Hall Road, Norwich, said: “We have started introducing live bands, which has helped bring new trade in. We are booked up for bands now until March.

“The last two months have been busier for us than the previous two months. The local trade is really supportive of us and the Norwich matches have been really busy.”

Sue Coleman, landlady at the Stanley, in north Norwich, said publicans, including herself, were more optimistic about the future than 12 months ago.

She said: “I’m sure some pubs will continue to do well, especially those at the higher end of the market, but I think little pubs will continue to struggle.

“I think we’ll see more experienced people taking over more pubs, perhaps. But, overall, I would say I’m more optimistic about the future of the pub industry than 12 months ago. Pubs are selling again, which is a good sign.”

Phil Cutter, landlord at the Murderers in Timberhill in the city centre, said he was looking forward to next year.

“Hopefully, we’ll have another year of Norwich in the Premiership, and we’ll have the City of Ale number two,” he said.

“It’s also the European Championships and the Olympics and there’s a lot going on next year. This year has been better than last year. The summer months were a lot better for us, with the slightly wetter weather driving the holidaymakers into the city from the coast.

“And pubs and publicans are now working together to make pubs destinations in their own right, something we weren’t doing for a long time.

“I’m more optimistic than 12 months ago.”

Chris Higgins, landlord at the Trafford Arms in Grove Road, and Sheriff of Norwich, said he was hoping the government did not bring in any punitive measures for the pub trade in March’s budget.

He said: “As for ourselves, we hope and believe that if we do things right, and give people what they want, we will be all right. But we have no control over what people can spend.

“Paul Lambert’s Norwich City side has put people back into pubs, and I have been told that the side being in the Premier League, is worth £10m to the local economy.

“But we all know what the state of the economy nationwide is and with young people building up credit card debt, as per the latest news, there will be less money in their pockets.”

Sally Mann, landlady at the Cottage in Silver Road, north Norwich, said publicans had to work hard to see results.

“This year has been up on the previous year and we are expecting more of the same next year,” she said.

“We’re quite happy with the way trade is going, but a lot of that is down to hard work and not resting on our laurels.

“I’m more optimistic than I was 12 months ago, but that’s probably as much down to personal issues as to the economic climate. We’ve got a good team here and we seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet.”

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

To see more stories from the campaign visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk/loveyourlocal.

What is your pub doing in the new year to bring back the punters? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.

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