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City’s clubland could return to ‘glory days’ after lockdown, say bar bosses

PUBLISHED: 07:37 03 June 2020 | UPDATED: 15:23 03 June 2020

Andy Gotts, chairman of Late Night Norwich. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Andy Gotts, chairman of Late Night Norwich. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011

Bar bosses have said life after lockdown down could trigger a return to the glory days of the city’s main nightlife strip – although debate the ability to social-distance.

Norwich City Centre, Street view Prince of Wales Road  Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANNorwich City Centre, Street view Prince of Wales Road Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Hospitality businesses have borne the brunt of the disruption caused by the coronavirus after being the first industry shuttered in lockdown measures.

Bars and clubs have been dealt a particularly hard blow with the majority of owners not earning an income, while restaurants have been able to provide a delivery service.

But some nightlife bosses on Prince of Wales Road believe the end of the pandemic could breathe new life into the street.

In recent years, the city’s clubland has seen multiple empty units including the Prince of Wales pub, while plans have been approved to turn Mercy, the street’s former biggest club, into 49 flats.

The front premises of former night club Mercy on Prince of Wales road, NorwichThe front premises of former night club Mercy on Prince of Wales road, Norwich

Rob Mac, operations manager at Mojo’s, agreed there had been a decline in the area.

But he did not believe the coronavirus would bring a further setback and instead said it could result in a resurgence of party-goers in Prince of Wales Road.

He said: “If anything it could revive the night-time economy and I think Prince of Wales Road could return to its glory days.

“It might even be on a bigger scale than three years ago as people don’t miss something until it has gone. People will want to have a drink and dance and see their friends.

Mantra in Prince of Wales Road is undergoing a partial refurbishment during lockdown. Pic: Dan Grimmer.Mantra in Prince of Wales Road is undergoing a partial refurbishment during lockdown. Pic: Dan Grimmer.

“In the meantime, we have looked at social-distancing measures including full PPE for staff, reduced capacity and thorough cleaning between sessions.”

Reopening, however, remains a looming question for Mr Mac, who hoped to open in time for October for the arrival of students.

He said he was in limbo and waiting on government advice, although was able to survive due to government grants.

Andy Gotts, the owner of Fluke and Envy and chairman of Late Night Norwich, expressed concern over the ability to reopen with social distancing measures.

It comes as Night Time Industries Association said that 64pc of businesses in the night-time industry would be unviable if reopened with distancing measures.

Mr Gotts said: “The late-night economy is based on volume not on high margins. I’ve done all the figures and they do not work. To trade profitably social-distancing is not conducive.”

He said on average his bars would see 1,500 people through the doors over the course of a Friday and Saturday.

However, Mr Gotts said when lockdown was completely relaxed people would flock to clubs and bars – although feared it could be a short-term burst.

He said: “There will be a huge appetite but to be able to go out you need money. There may be a wave of job losses if we enter a recession which prevent people to do that.”

Glen Sarabi has been general manager at Mantra Club and Lounge for two years and said the night-time economy had 100pc ceased trade.

But he said once the pandemic was over Prince of Wales could see a reset.

Mr Sarabi said: “People’s ideas of going out will have changed as they have been stuck at home so to be at the forefront of that is exciting. There will be fantastic opportunities and more of a pull to going out and more people in the street as they will want to socialise.”

The club has used the time for a partial refurbishment which, ordinarily, would not have been possible due to costs.

He said: “We’re taking the opportunity rather than just lying down. Normally, to shut during trading would have been a financial burden.

“The emphasis is going to be on quality and the service will be more premium, from the hostessing services to the entertainment, and I think that will be more attractive for the street.

“We’ve got a whole plethora of arrangements planned too, including pre-booking drinks so they are waiting on arrival, perspex screens and no bar service to ensure public safety.”

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