7:30 AM July 23, 2022
Night-time and entertainment venues are the key to driving the fightback of Norwich’s economy after a tough trading period during Covid restrictions.
Despite fears that cost of living and spiraling costs will make for continued challenges for hospitality businesses, including pubs, music venues, restaurants and nightclubs, there are hopes that the city will recover because of its growing independent arts scene.
Whether it is people booking hotel rooms, eating out or shopping, retail, hospitality chiefs said a thriving night-time scene can reap financial rewards for the city and make visitors return after good experiences.
Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Center for Retail Research in Norwich, said: “The night-time economy is vital in making the city vibrant. It is part and parcel but it will take time.”
Simon Peters, who took on Last Pub Standing in King Street in 2019, said: “The night-time economy means different things for different people but it is an integral part of the economy.
“It is important for businesses as well as attracting people to the area.”
The pub owner has 20 years experience in Norwich’s night-time industry including running the former Ritzy’s club in Tombland and believes the sector in the city had developed.
Mr Peters added: “There is a fair amount of diversity in terms of entertainment on offer.”
He said the rising costs would hit businesses and customers but he described it as a “speed bump” but accepted the situation would be tricky because of the effects of Covid restrictions.
“I don’t think the industry is going to collapse. People want to be entertained. Not everyone wants to look at a phone screen, watch television or listen to music at home,” Mr Peters added.
As well as hosting dance sessions, live music and serving street food, the Last Pub Standing also benefits from visitors to Carrow Road gigs, including The Killers and Elton John.
Musician Ben Street, live venue manager at Voodoo Daddy’s Showroom in Timberhill, believed the city was becoming a big draw for music fans.
Mr Street, 35, who set up Norwich’s Wild Paths music festival in 2018 at the same time he took on Voodoo Daddy’s Showroom, said: “We wanted to shine a spotlight on the amazing arts scene but it has been hyper charged.
“Norwich is a beautiful city and has amazing creative heritage. Norwich has a DIY creative scene not seen anywhere else in the country.”
He believed smaller venues were the future for attracting emerging acts and music fans.
“We are lucky with our venues and have got some of the strongest musical loyalty going in the country and hope more mini live art hubs can be set up.
“People are feeling the pinch but if you are trusted brand you will have support,” the Norwich musician added.
A spokesman for the Norwich Lanes Association said: “The night-time economy is tremendously important for the city. Here in the Lanes we are lucky enough to have some of the county’s finest restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars alongside an independent cinema, community theater and an incredible arts center too. The combination of all of those things with the addition of the area’s beautiful architecture, makes for an experience that other cities do not have.”
But there are fears that more could be done to support the sector.
Eric Kirk, from Drayton, who has 40 years of retail management including the former Castle Mall shopping centre, said: “The night-time economy can boost Norwich’s reputation and provides badly-needed funds.”
But Mr Kirk said better public transport, including regular night buses, was needed for folk living in the suburbs and surrounding villages.
Martin Schmierer, Green city councillor for Mancroft ward, said the city center’s night-time economy had changed over the past decade to people going out earlier in the evening.
He feared more people would drop going out because of cost of living increases.
City’s musical heritage
Before the days of clubs and bars in Norwich city center people had a plethora of choice on where to dance the night away.
One of the most popular dance halls was the Samson and Hercules ballroom which opened in the 1930s in Tombland.
It was a place where countless couples met for the first time.
The venue changed into Ritzy’s club in the 1980s but that closed in 2003.
Another big attraction was The Talk in Oak Street which opened in 1954 as The Norwich Industrial Club.
Big names to come to the club, which became the Melody Rooms before turning into The Talk, were Cream, Slade and Sweet, The Who and The Kinks.
It’s closed in March.
The Grosvenor Rooms, which used to be in Prince Of Wales Road, was a jazz and skiffle concert hub in the 1950s and hosted The Beatles in 1963.
It was demolished in 1964.