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Demise of Norfolk's pub scene - are cafes taking over?

PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:44 27 May 2019

Many towns and villages are losing their pubs but there appears to be an ever-increasing number of coffee shops. Picture: Getty Images

Many towns and villages are losing their pubs but there appears to be an ever-increasing number of coffee shops. Picture: Getty Images

MarianVejcik

Is Norfolk swapping cocktails for coffees?

Many towns and villages are losing their pubs but there appears to be an ever-increasing number of coffee shops.

José De León Guzmán, founder of coffee brewer Kofra at the company's new cafe in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at UEA. Picture: Aaron BhavsarJosé De León Guzmán, founder of coffee brewer Kofra at the company's new cafe in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at UEA. Picture: Aaron Bhavsar

In Norfolk pubs make up just 2.7% of all outlets - lower than the national average of 3.5%.

Cafes on the other hand make up 3.4% in Norfolk - higher than the average of 3.1%.

The reasoning behind this is both because of changing social trends and an increasing appetite for the offerings of coffee shops over free houses, according to experts.

Kofra has three stores in Norwich, and says it'ss proposition is what makes it successful. Picture: KofraKofra has three stores in Norwich, and says it'ss proposition is what makes it successful. Picture: Kofra

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José De León Guzmán is the managing director of Kofra Speciality Coffee Brewers.

The independent chain has stores in the Golden Triangle's Unthank Road, as well as on Onley Street and at the University of East Anglia's Sainsbury Centre.

The Grey Seal Coffee team; from left David Lane, Marc Sangster and Tobias Sangster-Bullers.   Picture: MARK BULLIMOREThe Grey Seal Coffee team; from left David Lane, Marc Sangster and Tobias Sangster-Bullers. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Mr De León Guzmán said: "I think coffee shops have overtaken pubs in popularity because of their proposition. It's things like being able to walk into a coffee shop at 7.30am, and then if you're a flexible employee stay and work all day.

"It's also more socially acceptable to bring your children into a coffee shop during the day than into a pub," he added.

He said that the shift from pub to coffee shops was not down to people wanting - or not wanting - to drink alcohol.

"We serve wine, it's not that people don't want to drink so are coming to coffee shops," he said. "It's the proposition and the feeling of community that makes coffee shops successful."

Mr De León Guzmán added that the public's growing interest in the provenance of their food has also added to demand.

"Customers like to drink artisan coffee because we can tell them exactly where it comes from," he said. "We work exclusively with only a few importers and our customers really enjoy that."

And for the coffee capital of Norfolk, Cromer, the speciality coffee trend is not slowing down.

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In 2017 tourists spent £150m on food and drink in the north Norfolk region, up 3% on the previous year.

Spending on catering services far outweighs any other spending category, with accommodation bringing in only £47.2m and retail bringing in £96.5m.

"When you think about the visitors we get - day visitors and a lot of holiday makers from London - they don't want to spend the sunny afternoon inside a dark room of a pub," said Tobias Sangster, co-owner of the town's Grey Seal Coffee café. "They want to be somewhere that's bright and let's the light in and makes the most of where you are - not a traditional pub which could be anywhere."

The coffee specialists opened last year and is one of the many tea shops, cafes and bistros which line the streets of the seaside town.

"We have a different proposition as the only specialist coffee roaster in north Norfolk and as such a specialist coffee café," he said.

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He added that the pubs which he believed will survive in Norfolk are the ones which are proactively moving with the times.

"One of our pubs in Cromer always has a really young crowd. I think it's because they have funny names for their menu items, they actively encourage people to bring their own games in. That's the sort of place which I think still creates a community for itself," he said.

Manager of Norwich's St Andrews Brewhouse, George Akister, agreed that pubs had to move with the times - though that would never be replaced in the public consciousness by coffee shops.

"It's just not a competition because they're completely different," he said. "People won't be drinking coffee at 10pm and the fact is, people love alcohol."

He added that the current economic climate were dividing the good from the bad. "Some people are doing very well in the pub trade," he said. "And the ones that aren't doing well are shutting. It's two extremes."

What the experts say:

Ratula Chakraborty is a professor of business management and director of MSc management programmes at the University of East Anglia.

Professor Chakraborty said: "The day of the pub is long gone. Netflix and entertainment in the comfort of one's home has taken over from evenings of standing around drinking in pubs. This shift most certainly is here to stay. Why bother going to a pub when you can have the finest brew at home?"

She continued: "Café culture on the other hand is here to stay and increasingly folk of all ages are seen to be thronging cafés enjoying a coffee and a conversation."

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