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Pub closures in Norfolk: 145 shut since 2010

PUBLISHED: 05:30 01 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:27 01 August 2018

Alastair Simpson in happier times at The Swan in Gressenhall. Picture; Matthew Usher.

Alastair Simpson in happier times at The Swan in Gressenhall. Picture; Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2013

Norfolk has lost almost one in five of its pubs since 2010 – the equivalent of a closure every month for the past seven years.

David Upton, centre, joint landlord Richard Cornwall and partner Sue Squires at The Hop-In, North Walsham. This pub is thriving but others have not been so lucky.  Picture: Sonya DuncanDavid Upton, centre, joint landlord Richard Cornwall and partner Sue Squires at The Hop-In, North Walsham. This pub is thriving but others have not been so lucky. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal 145 public houses and bars across the county shut between 2010 and 2017.

Of those, 45 disappeared in the 12 months between 2016 and 2017.

It means there are now 660 pubs and bars in the county, compared to 805 in 2010

Some landlords claim a change in drinking culture and lack of support from the community is to blame for the closures.

Others have pointed the finger at the taxman, complaining about the duty on beer, VAT levels and the cost of business rates.

Richard Dixon, from the Norwich and Norfolk branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said the figures were “worrying”.

He said: “A pub has to make money to be viable and the trouble is the high amount of tax publicans have to pay compared to supermarkets.

“The other big problem is getting people to visit.”

The sign at the Last Pub Standing,  opened last year in King Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe sign at the Last Pub Standing, opened last year in King Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Dixon, who is CAMRA’s pub protection officer, said landlords need to be innovative to attract customers.

Pubs and bars in Norwich have seen the biggest decline since 2010, with 30 closing in seven years.

It was once said the Fine City had a pub for every day of the year, but ONS figures show just 110 existed in 2017.

The figures further reveal that:

• King’s Lynn had 85 pubs and bars in 2017, compared to 110 in 2010.

• Great Yarmouth has 80 – down from 100.

• North Norfolk only lost five pubs in seven years. It now has 90.

• South Norfolk has 80, down from 100.

The Last Pub Standing, opened last year in King Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Last Pub Standing, opened last year in King Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

• Broadland has lost 15 since 2010 and now has 60 left.

• Breckland is down from 90 to 75.

• Waveney has 80 pubs, compared to 95 in 2010

Across the UK 5,745 pubs closed between 2010 and 2017. There are 54 local authority areas where 30 or more shut.

Meanwhile, 21 areas of the country have bucked the decline and have more pubs now than they had in 2010.

Top of the list is Hackney in East London. It had 55 more bars in 2017 than it did in 2010.

ONS has rounded the numbers to avoid identifying individual pubs.

‘There was a total lack of support’

Owner and general manager, Darren Fennah, at the Last Pub Standing, opened last year in King Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYOwner and general manager, Darren Fennah, at the Last Pub Standing, opened last year in King Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Alastair Simpson ran The Swan at Gressenhall, near Dereham, for five years until he closed on July 15.

He claims a lack of customers and support from the community killed off the business, rather than taxes.

Mr Simpson took on the premises in September 2013. Prior to him opening, the pub had been closed for 18 months and boarded-up.

He said: “When I opened five years ago, people were saying ‘we won’t let that [the pub’s closure] happen again’.

“But within three months they all lost interest. By the end of January our chef left because there was not enough to do.

“There was a total lack of support.”

Mr Simpson, who had the freehold for the premises, said he struggled for five years to keep the pub going.

“I should have closed 12 months ago, but I was not brave enough to do it,” he said.

“People tend to drink at home now because it is so much cheaper.”

Micropub in North Walsham is thriving

It is not all bad news for the county’s pubs.

Business has been booming at the Hop-In, on Market Street, in North Walsham, ever since it opened in August 2017.

And unlike many pubs, it has not had to diversify its offering in order to attract more customers.

Instead its focus is on providing quality ale.

Richard Cornwall, who co-owns the micropub with Nigel Davies, said: “It has been doing better than we thought it would.

“It is very competitive rent, business rates are quite amicable and our overheads are low as it is just two people running the place.”

Mr Cornwall said the pub is based in a former taxi office, and appeals to those who appreciate “good, well-kept ale”.

Due to its small size, it has less than 30 seats and a handful of tables outside.

“We are not doing food,” he said. “But people can come in and bring their fish and chips or a pizza.

“We just provide a knife and fork.”

Running a pub ‘More difficult than expected’

The Last Pub Standing boasts a city centre location, a newly refurbished outdoor area and a food menu that changes with the seasons.

But owner Darren Fennah says it has still not been enough bring in regular crowds of customers.

The pub, which opened in November last year, takes its name from being the last one still standing on King Street.

Mr Fennah said a delay in opening - caused by a planning issue - meant he missed out on Christmas bookings in 2017.

Meanwhile, he has also lost trade due to the bad weather earlier in the year.

He said: “It has been a lot more difficult than I expected.

“Constantly getting people in to the pub is one of my biggest challenges. A lot of people come in and say ‘we didn’t know you were here’.

“But we are ticking along trying to grow steadily and get ourselves established.

“We are fighting against places like Wetherspoons, so we offer higher end quality, rather than the cheap stuff.”

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