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Is it the end for our local pub?

PUBLISHED: 17:49 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:49 25 September 2018

From left to right:  Fat Cat landlord Colin Keatley with Will Keatley (Pub manager), Vicci (Bar Supervisor)and Gemma (Bar Supervisor). Photo provided by Will Keatley

From left to right: Fat Cat landlord Colin Keatley with Will Keatley (Pub manager), Vicci (Bar Supervisor)and Gemma (Bar Supervisor). Photo provided by Will Keatley

Archant

Fat Cat owner Colin Keatley says large companies can’t totally be blamed for the demise of local pubs

Colin Keatley has worked in the pub trade since the age of 15 and moved to Norwich in 1980 where he bought his first pub - The White Lion.

Now the owner of three popular local pubs - the Fat Cat, Catton Canary and Brewery Tap - Colin says large companies can’t be totally blamed for the demise of local pubs.

Four Norwich pubs – the York Tavern, Brickmakers, Garden House and Gibraltar Gardens – have announced they will not renew their leases, with three putting it down to steep rent increases,

And recent figures have revealed that around 18 pubs a week closed in the UK over the past six months.

But the reality is that people are not using pubs regularly in the way they used to – there are a lot of places to explore and a lot more activities to do.

And thanks to being able to buy cheap yet good quality booze in the supermarket alongside an increase in television entertainment, many people are choosing to drink at home rather than going to the local pub.

The younger generation are a lot more health conscious than the older generation Even the pub crawls during Fresher’s’ Week are frowned upon and one university has even recently suggested that their students ate ice-cream instead of drinking alcohol.

At the start of World War II Norwich had a pub for every day of the year but even when I moved to Norwich there were very few decent pubs - I think people are a lot fussier than they were then.

Even if people do venture to their local they don’t want to just drink – they want to have food and be entertained. At the Fat Cat we do sell rolls and pies but we have 20 old boys who still come in for a pint at lunchtime.

Admittedly I find it really sad when tied landlords who have put a lot of their own money and effort into creating a popular and successful business are kicked out.

I was really lucky to be able to buy the freehold of my first pub - it was cheap and I was in the right place at the right time. Now a freehold of a pub is really expensive to buy and they are virtually impossible to find.

I had the advantage over tied landlords because I had more freedom to choose what beer I sold in my pub and it was less expensive for me to buy.

I decided to sell real ale as it was becoming increasingly popular and there were very few pubs selling good beer in this area at the time. I was then able to invest additional money into the creation of the Fat Cat brand.

Pubs like the Garden House and York Tavern are in good locations and the land is worth a lot of money so the companies want to hold on to their prime sites.

The Government has promised to review the situation in regards to pub tenancy agreements but it seems to me that it is actually much too busy concentrating on Brexit at the moment to do anything about it.

The world is changing but the pub is a great institution and can still remain the heart of our communities

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