Is pool as a sport dead in Norwich pubs?

Pool players are struggling to find enough venues, because so many pubs are closing. Reporter DAVID BALE asks whether pool in our pubs is becoming a thing of the past.

Pool players in Norwich are lamenting the possible death of the sport as a pastime in the city's pubs with at least three former venues now closed.

In the past most pubs had at least one pool table and had teams based at the venues.

But many pubs now, especially in the city centre, do not have any pool tables, and others are cutting back because of changes in lifestyle or just because they take up too much space.

Jon Colman, 36, who plays for Norwich in the Premier League and also played for Norfolk, said: 'So many pubs are closing in Norwich that pool teams are struggling to find a venue to play. Most teams are resorting to play at Rileys snooker/pool club in Magdalen Street, but they obviously only have a certain amount of space.

'Pubs without pool tables should consider having one put in. Pool in Norwich is played on either a Monday or Thursday nights. As many of 15 players from both teams who like a good drink would be a welcome income on a slow weekday evening. We need some more pubs to play at to keep the leagues going.'

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Mr Colman, who lives off Sprowston Road in Norwich and is a driving instructor, said he used to play at the Horse and Dray in Ber Street, the Woodside, off Woodside Road, and the Beehive in Cannerby Lane, Sprowston. All three of those pubs are now closed. He added: 'The leagues have been whittled down as a consequence.'

Meanwhile, Tunmores in Ashwellthorpe, which hires out pool tables to pubs and clubs, has also noticed a change.

Office manager Andy Grear-Hardy said: 'We have noticed it, especially in Norwich, because so many pubs have been closing. This diminishment in the number of venues with pool tables could be mainly down to pubs closing, but it's, maybe, also because some pubs are becoming more food-oriented and decided to get rid of their pool tables. It's a shame because there are some really good pool players in Norfolk and they need somewhere to play.'

Simon Carpenter, manager of Riley's in Magdalen Street, said: 'I have recently accommodated a couple of pool teams that used to play at pubs. But for me the whole point of the pool leagues is to go to different venues for each match, which obviously they don't do if they are based with us. At the end of the day the economy is rubbish, and pubs are closing or removing their pool tables.

'However, I don't understand any pubs not having pool or darts teams. They are missing out on a lot of guaranteed trade.'

Ben Ackers, landlord at the White Lion in Oak Street, has bar billiards in his pub, rather than pool.

He said: 'Bar/billiards is much smaller and takes up less room. Pubs are now increasingly pushed for trade and pool tables seem to be dying out. A pool table can be replaced by up to 30 seats for customers.'

But Ian Warren, who runs the Angel Gardens in Angel Road, north Norwich, said he had two pool team based at his venue. And Dawn Hopkins, landlady at the Ketts Tavern and the Rose, both in Norwich, said she was quite happy with having pool tables at both venues.

She said: 'The Ketts did not have a pool table when we took it on, but we did a survey of customers, and they wanted one, so we got one. They bring a slightly younger crowd in and on quiet Monday nights can be invaluable. We would not change things at all. In fact, we are looking for a pool team at the Ketts Tavern, so anyone who is interested, please pop in and see us.'

The Evening News has been urging people to return to pubs in our Love your Local campaign.

To see more stories from the campaign visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk/loveyourlocal

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