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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Monkey Bar

Monkey Bar

100 Bath Street, Glasgow

Once a major part of the pre-club circuit in central Glasgow, it is now trying to regain its position as one of the places to be seen in town. Well-placed in a basement-site on the lower end of Bath Street its interior has been revamped somewhat, the major change being an extension through to Bath Lane.
In the mid to late nineties the Monkey Bar, along with places like Candy Bar (now Bar Kandi), Bloc, Spy Bar (now Butterfly & Pig) and various other stylish joints congregated around the Sauchiehall, Bath and Hope Street axis, were the focus of action in that vicinity before folk moved on to the clubs.
Things have changed. The emergence of bar/club hybrids that open early and stay open until club closing times, and the habit now of drinking at home before going straight to nightclubs has reduced the demand for top quality pre-club venues. And that is before you even consider the creeping domination of chain bars - of which more to come in later blogs.
In the meantime Monkey Bar has gone – via an interregnum as Rust – and come again – with another branch opened in Kilmarnock- hoping to cut a slice of the market that remains. Whether the owners are the same as before the name change, only a dip into the murky world of Glasgow pub ownership would reveal, but what matters to punters is its return.
They have a DJ for weekend evenings and the prices to attract clubbers. All day every day it’s £2 for Vodka, Gin, Morgans or Bulleit Bourbon with a free dash, or a can of Rush Energy. At the same price they offer Corona, VK, a pint of Fosters or glass of house red. For a more discerning drinker they have Moretti on draught at a standard price.
The basic structure of the front interior is as before, the raised area on your right as you enter remaining the focal point of the whole bar, with the dead space behind the bar still a wasted quiet area. Red predominates- as so often in bar design recently – with back lighting in this colour beneath the bar and the elevated section.
The main change and improvement though is the extension up a level through to the back, which connects to Sauchiehall Lane. You pass the kitchen serving- hatch on the way, another relatively new feature. Taking a peak out through the back door you see the adjoining bar, Universal, which has used the lane as its front for a few years now. Not only is the lane a better smoking area than the basement at the front, but also it lends a raffish air to the place that adds to its attraction.
Inside there are pieces of contemporary Glasgow art on the wall and not entirely convincing brickwork beneath the back bar. The toilets feature much shiny chrome, frosted glass and burgundy tiling. That’s the ladies’. The gents’ seems to have had less of a refurbishment but can’t be faulted for cleanliness. The disabled convenience is up on the back level, a seeming mistake but perhaps intended to be easily accessible from the lane entrance.
Monkey Bar is equipped to return to prominence, maybe at the heart of a resurgent independent scene. It will be enough though, just to be the kind of place that you are happy to be as the night darkens, the clubs beckon, and anticipation grows…

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