Prominent Norwich landlords have hailed 2013 as a good and improving year for pubs in the city. Despite the credit crunch and tough times for the business they said they are feeling positive for 2014.

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And their views were confirmed by Camra, which saw record takings at its annual beer festival in 2013.

Warren Wordsworth, Norwich & Norfolk chairman, said: “We are very optimistic for 2014.

“We are of course concerned about pub closures due to the increases in prices of drinks and pub running costs but the variety of real ales available throughout Norfolk continues to flourish, many from local micro-breweries.

“Also there seems to be an increasing trend of younger people exploring the variety of real ales, real cider and perries.”

Dawn Hopkins, landlady at the Rose in Queens Road, said: “This year marked 10 years of my being at The Rose and certainly the pub trade has changed immensely in that time. But I think this year has been a good one for many Norwich pubs – another successful City of Ale festival and the Camra annual general meeting brought to the attention of many outside of our fine city the array of fantastic pubs we are blessed to have. I have been delighted with the effort some people have made to be here, like the chap who came on a 400-mile day trip by train from Newport in Wales to spend just a few hours sitting at the bar. It makes me proud to be a Norwich publican and I’m looking forward to another year behind the bar.”

Ben Ackers, landlord at the White Lion in Oak Street, said: “2013 has been kind. Cold weather increased food sales early on and set the trend for the year and winning three Camra awards attracted new customers. Summer was average but the autumn-winter spell has seen food sales rise again, especially during our September beer festival and the Norwich beer festival, continuing into November and December, allowing us to have fun with bolder dishes.

“In summary, beer, cider and food sales continue rising as we build on our hard work in the two years since taking over. People are still discovering our pub and we hope it will continue throughout 2014.”

Phil Cutter, landlord at the Murderers in Timberhill, said: “2013 has proved to be a bit of a mixed bag for us. Trade has continued to be a bit patchy, however consumer confidence seems to be steadily improving, with the last six months being considerably better than the corresponding period of 2012. The decrease in beer duty by 1p and the chancellor’s abolition of the beer duty escalator in the budget has given additional confidence within the pub trade.

“However, the government’s decision to scrap proposals for a minimum unit of alcohol seems to support the aggressive cut-price alcohol of supermarkets, and undermine the entire pub industry.

“City of Ale has gone from strength to strength, with more pubs involved in 2013, and much more interest from real ale lovers from across the UK, with the generous support of the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID). More small independent Norfolk brewers are beginning to trade, which is a real complement to the quality real ale houses across Norfolk, and especially within Norwich, that support the local brewing industry.

“As for the Murderers, and myself, it has been a truly great year. I was semi-finalist in the BII Licensee of the year, and was shortlisted as a Food Hero at the EDP Food and Drink awards. The pub was also crowned regional sports pub of the year at the Morning Advertiser pub awards, for an unprecedented third year in a row.”

Nick De’Ath, who runs The Unthank Arms in Newmarket Street and The Lawyer in Wensum Street, said: “2013 has been a steady year. In general people have been encouraged to come out a bit more but are carefully choosing venues of quality and consistency of service to maximise their value for money. Norwich still boasts a fantastic array of pubs and local brewers, giving customers the choice they need to tempt them away from the supermarket shelves.

“A bright and reasonably warm summer kept the garden at The Unthank busy and the return of our comedy festival gave us three sell-out evenings. It’s been a more challenging year in the city centre but The Lawyer has introduced craft beers, local brewer Adnams’s new dry-hopped lager and some fantastic new wines so we’ve kept our regular customers and gained some new ones.

“At The Unthank we’ve built on our successes hosting parties and weddings and that side of the business is growing strongly. 2014 will bring us long-awaited new loos at The Unthank, and some new promotions at The Lawyer.”

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