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Help your high street - landlady’s plea after city pub closure

PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 November 2020 | UPDATED: 13:15 10 November 2020

The Birdcage in Norwich. Photo: Lauren Gregory

The Birdcage in Norwich. Photo: Lauren Gregory

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A Norwich landlady says she has been overwhelmed by well-wishes after announcing one of her pubs was closing, as she urged people to go the extra mile to support city traders.

Lauren Gregory at the Sir Garnet. Photo: Jo MillingtonLauren Gregory at the Sir Garnet. Photo: Jo Millington

Lauren Gregory, who previously ran The Birdcage on Pottergate, said it was vital that shoppers and diners sought out local businesses rather than opting for chain alternatives.

At the end of October, the landlady, who also runs the Sir Garnet on the market, announced on Instagram that the popular Birdcage pub would close when its lease ended.

She said it had not been an easy decision, but that, alongside having a young family to consider and another pub to run, its layout made social distancing difficult and left the business no longer viable.

“It’s best to batten down the hatches and I’m fortunate enough that it was the end of the lease, so it was the opportune time to review it,” she said.

The Birdcage in Norwich. Photo: Lauren GregoryThe Birdcage in Norwich. Photo: Lauren Gregory

The news was met with more than 300 comments in response, and she said she had been overwhelmed with messages from people who had supported the pub over the years, including those who had marked weddings and birthdays there.

“It was really heartbreaking but also really wonderful at a time when we had all been so disconnected,” she said.

“We had so many phone calls and emails. It’s something to treasure - I’m really, really overwhelmed and privileged I get to have a piece in those memories.”

Going forward, as well as work at her casting agency Crumb and event planners Lullaby Inc, she will focus on the Sir Garnet - it has opened an off-licence selling local wines, beers and Norfolk hampers, enabling it to both stay open in lockdown and support the city’s network of traders.

Alex Sutcliffe, Paul Bryan, Lauren Gregory, Saskia Baron and Tiffany Chase at the Sir Garnet in Norwich. Photo: Jo MillingtonAlex Sutcliffe, Paul Bryan, Lauren Gregory, Saskia Baron and Tiffany Chase at the Sir Garnet in Norwich. Photo: Jo Millington

And while the Birdcage may have closed - though Ms Gregory said reopening down the line was not out of the question - her work supporting the city’s Lanes has not stopped.

“It’s vital to see that community survive this storm,” she said, adding that it had “never before” been so crucial to support independent businesses, arts venues and performers.

And, more widely, she said it was essential for people to shop and buy more deliberately - swapping chains and big name brands for local alternatives.

“It’s an immensely challenging time,” she said. “People get the impression that people are doing okay because they’re doing takeaways, but they are fighting fire.

The Birdcage in Norwich. Photo: Steve AdamsThe Birdcage in Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

“We have to bear in mind that pubs are built around busy Friday and Saturday nights. We want to be able to engage with customers, not keep them at arm’s length.

“It’s not easy - I’ve done something like seven different Covid risk assessments over the last month.

“Everyone is having to react, but we don’t want to run a business by reaction, we want to consider the best way of operating for us.”

But, keen to focus on the positives, she said: “The great side is that the Norwich community is really, really supporting each other. It’s been incredible to see what businesses are doing - they are not throwing each other under the bus, everyone is doing what they can.”

FLASHBACK: Lauren Gregory at the Sir Garnet in 2015. Picture: Matthew Usher.FLASHBACK: Lauren Gregory at the Sir Garnet in 2015. Picture: Matthew Usher.

She said that support was shown on their doorstep - businesses nearby, including City Fish and CJ’s Fruit and Veg market stalls, were helping out the Sir Garnet where they could, and vice versa.

As the festive season approaches, she called for people to think twice about where they spent their money.

“It’s important this Christmas not to just go down the route of chains,” she said, adding that, with people spending more time at home, it would be great to see shoppers seek out local stockists.

We have launched a Shop Local campaign, which urges people to support businesses close to them and see more of their money stay in the Norfolk economy.

The Sir Garnet, Norwich Market place. Picture: Denise BradleyThe Sir Garnet, Norwich Market place. Picture: Denise Bradley

According to research by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies for every £1 spent at an independent business 63p ends up back in the local economy compared to only 5p spent at a national or international retailer.


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