Gone but not forgotten: a pick of some of the most famous lost Glasgow pubs and clubs you’ll remember

Glaswegians have always loved to drink and dance; the two go hand in hand. Over the years, favourite venues have changed their names, with some old stagers disappearing completely. Here, Norry Wilson takes a stagger down hazy memory lane to recall six now silent city venues.

 

Granny Black’s, Candleriggs
A popular pub and meeting place when the ‘Merchant City’ really was home to merchants and traders, as opposed to pram-pushers, tourists and Sunday-lunching suburbanites, Granny Black’s claim to fame was that it was the first hot-food takeaway in Glasgow.

Located right beside the city’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market (today’s Merchant Square), it was abuzz from breakfast time, as tired traders downed dawn pints and tucked into full, fried breakfasts. Those too busy to pull up a chair could carry away one of Granny Black’s famous hot pies.

Established in 1820, as The Stag, the pub once offered a range of upstairs function, meeting and private dining rooms.
By the 1960s, the bar had become a favourite bolthole for wabbit and foot-weary husbands, escaping a day’s shopping with the wife in the next-door Goldberg’s department store.
Before Glasgow vanished under the current avalanche of bearded hipsters, craft beers, pulled pork and brioche buns, regulars could tuck into a ‘mince pot’, before enjoying a night of fizzy lager and karaoke.
In the days before lap-dancing clubs, it was also one of the few Glasgow pubs to put on strippers, earning the owners a stern rebuke from the city’s licensing board.

Sadly, in 2002, just as the Merchant City redevelopment was hitting its stride, a burst water pipe saw the pub’s adjoining tenement, fortunately then empty, collapse into the street. Within days, and despite a last-minute, rear-guard campaign to save the historic howff, the bulldozers moved in and wiped Granny Black’s off the city map.

Thirteen years later, and after the non-arrival of a long-promised Selfridge’s store, the gap site still lies vacant.

Six lost Edinburgh pubs and clubs you’ll remember

The Locarno, Sauchiehall Street
Opened in 1926, and named after the border treaty which was supposed to secure peace in Europe, this Sauchiehall Street institution kept the city on its toes for nearly 60 years.

With its sprung, Canadian Maple dancefloor, revolving stage and runaround balcony, it challenged the Dennistoun Palais and the Barrowland for the title of Glasgow’s premier ballroom.

The Locarno Ballroom, Glasgow, 1956. Picture: Paris-Roubaix/Flickr

The Locarno Ballroom, Glasgow, 1956. Picture: Paris-Roubaix/Flickr

Host to the first Scottish Professional Dancing Championships, in 1928, during its long life, the floor bounced to the sound of everything from the Charleston and big band jazz, to rock’n’roll, soul and hard-core punk.

A favourite with American servicemen during the Second World War (many of them were billeted at the nearby Beresford Hotel), the Yanks returned, in force, in the 1960s, when the Polaris Missile base opened on the Holy Loch.

Such was their reputation as dandy dressers, cool dancers and able fighters that, for many years, every weekend, a US Navy Shore Patrol ‘Paddy Wagon’ would be parked outside the venue, to deal with any ‘over-refreshed’ seamen.
In 1967, the venue played host to the Stax tour, when frantic city soul fans almost pulled a bruised, bothered and bewildered Otis Redding clean off the stage.

It might have been named after a peace treaty, but the venue often turned into a war-zone, with the city’s various rival gangs clashing regularly on the dancefloor.

As musical and dancing styles evolved, so did the venue, changing its name, first to Tiffany’s – when it played host to a roster of big name bands – and, latterly, to Zanzibar; a diabolical ‘tropical’ disco, complete with zebra-print colour scheme and plastic palm trees.

Some fans still recall a 1982 U2 show at Tiffany’s, when the now stadium-filling rockers played to a half-empty hall.
Come the late 1980s, the cavernous dancehall – a ‘superclub’ in all but name – proved difficult to fill and the venue was converted into a casino. Glasgow was the loser in that game of chance.

Gone but not forgotten: Five lost Glasgow pubs and clubs

Charlie Parkers, Royal Exchange Square
Situated where today’s Di Maggio’s pizza and pasta joint does a roaring trade, Charlie Parkers is rightly regarded as one of Glasgow’s first ‘posers’ pubs’.

Opened in 1977, in what had previously been The Gay Gordon cabaret restaurant (no laughing at the back), it offered cash-splashing Glasgow topers a heady mix of over-priced pints, lurid cocktails and towering, US-style burgers. Needless to say, this being Glasgow, it proved a roaring success.

The brainchild of city leisure entrepreneur Ken McCulloch, who today runs a global hotel empire, Charlie Parkers sold itself on it exclusivity. Outside, a brass plaque, bearing the pub’s name, was all the advertising the venue needed.

The bouncers, sorry, ‘doormen’, delighted in turning away flares and kipper-tie-wearing punters. Getting a knock-back from the bar was a rite of passage. Getting in was your key to sitting in a semi-darkened, shag pile-carpeted room, where suited businessmen and bubble-permed footballers wined and dined women half their age.

Quite what the eponymous be-bop saxophonist would have made of the joint, we don’t know; although, we suspect he would have been refused entry. ‘Sorry, not tonight, mate. Regulars only…’
To make up for his absence, a metal sculpture of the star – often used as a handy hat or coat rack – stood in one corner of the bar.
McCulloch, who had learned his trade under the old British Rail hotel empire and the guiding hand of Sir Reo Stakis, went on to open the city’s exclusive One Devonshire Hotel and launch the Dakota Hotels chain.

Spankies
Nestled on the Clyde Walkway, at Custom House Quay, this riverside venue operated under a number of different names over the years; depending on your age, take your pick from Spankies, Manhattan, Panama Jax or the Trading Post.
Opened in 1974, by business partners Robert McFarlane and Brian Farquhar, it was the first purpose-built discotheque in Glasgow. A long, low-roofed, box-like building, for a while it was the hottest ticket in town.

By 1975, along with your pint of heavy and chicken or scampi in a basket, you could boogie to the disco sounds provided by moonlighting Radio Clyde DJs Steve Jones and Brian Ford. Mind you, in those dim and distant days, the disco’s bar shut at 11pm and kicking out time was 1.30am.

Panama Jax (warning – video contains flashing lights)

For a while, it was the place to be seen, with Old Firm footballers, local TV personalities and minor pop stars all checking their reflections and dancefloor moves in its smoked mirror walls.

As is obligatory in Glasgow, Rod Stewart also popped in; holding a famously raucous aftershow party at the venue following his 1983 concert at Ibrox Stadium.

By the time it took on the Panama Jax name, the punters were sporting wedge haircuts, white stilettos and Miami-Vice style jackets. Mind you, a suit jacket, worn over a vest, has long been a Glasgow fashion statement. Think ‘Champagne’ Charlie Nicholas and Frank ‘Where’s the burdz?’ McAvennie in their full, suede slippers with no socks, feather-cut, disco plumage.

Sadly, due to its riverside location, the venue witnessed more than just fashion disasters; with one or two well-oiled clubbers deciding to go for a midnight dip in the Clyde, with fatal consequences.

Despite the city council’s ambitions to turn the riverside into a bustling hive of activity, all too soon, the walkway became the favoured al-fresco gathering spot of street drinkers and drug users.

In 2003, after the venue’s final incarnation, the Trading Post restaurant – a last failed attempt to lure drinkers and diners to the often rain-lashed and windswept concrete quay – was damaged by a fire, the whole edifice was demolished.

The Mars Bar
A legend in the city’s music scene, the Mars Bar was the pogoing place of choice for the city’s young punks.

With an unofficial council ban trying to silence the ‘filth and the fury’ of the New Wave explosion, Glasgow punk fans had two choices; either make the long trek to Paisley’s Bungalow Bar or Silver Thread Hotel, or head down to Howard Street, just off St Enoch Square, and pile into the Mars Bar.

Previously known as the Snaffle Bit and, later the Steering Wheel, in 1977, the Mars Bar found itself at a musical crossroads. Once home to beard-stroking modern jazz fans, its music policy rapidly mutated to champion (cash in) on the punk explosion. The ‘s’ in the bar’s name appeared in all publicity as a ‘$’ sign.
One night it would be West Enders nodding along to the Bill Kyle Jazz Band, the next, it would spotty teenagers, in home-stencilled shirts, leaping about to the cranked-up fizz of Johnny and the Self Abusers (later to become Simple Minds).
As their popularity grew, The Minds began to play at the pub every Sunday night.

Much like the legendary Oasis gig at King Tut’s, if every middle-aged Glasgow music fan who claims to have seen Jim Kerr on stage at the Mars Bar had actually been present, the venue would have to have been at least five times the size.
Other local bands to play the venue included; The Zones, The Cuban Heels, Modern Man and The Venigmas and the Berlin Blondes.

Veteran music writer and broadcaster, Billy Sloan, then slim of hip and shaggy of hair, was regularly to be found, standing stage right, scribbling furiously in his notebook
Due to the young fans the punk scene attracted, there was always a huddle of under-agers outside the pub, all smoking and spitting furiously and craning their necks to try to see and hear what was going on inside.

In a bizarre twist, as the pub’s fame grew, thanks to gig reviews in the NME and Melody Maker, the owners were threatened with legal action by the makers of the real Mars bars and had to change the venue’s name, to ‘The Countdown’.
When the punk bubble burst, the Mars Bar just melted away…

The Arches
The latest Glasgow clubbing institution to bite the dust, the Arches was as notorious as it was innovative.
Launched in 1990, as part of Glasgow’s year as European City of Culture, the venue breathed new life into the long-neglected vaults which support the rail lines from the city’s Central Station. Once home only to pigeons, rats and the occasional rough sleeper, it was soon thronged; by day, with gallery and theatre goers and, by night, by the first generation of ravers and Ecstasy enthusiasts.

Picture: John Devlin

Picture: John Devlin

A vast space, the 2000-capacity venue offered up an anarchic mix of agit-prop drama, kids’ shows, touring bands and cutting-edge clubbing; fast becoming one of the most talked about arts venues in Europe.

The space – physically, psychologically and creatively – it offered a new generation of city artists, musicians and DJs helped deliver the so-called ‘Glasgow Renaissance’.
For a few fleeting years, being in the middle of one of the packed arches on a Friday or Saturday night as the DJ dropped a bass bomb was to be in very heaven.

Certainly, any clubbers who ever emerged, shirtless, wide-eyed and sweaty, into the man-made soundbox that is the railway-bridge-canopied Midland Street, only to be met with more house music, pumping from the Desert Storm boys’ customised armoured personnel carrier, will never forget the thrill. Come the early hours, young Glaswegians were regularly to be found singing and dancing in the rain.

Once outside, huddled conversations would decide whether you went on to an ‘afterparty’, or retired to the 24-hour Change at Jamaica diner, for endless pots of tea, rounds of toast and wide-eyed, slack-jawed conversations.

Tragically, as electronic music grew more intense, and the Arches’ crowd got younger, so the drugs began to take their toll.
Following a series of run-ins with, first, Strathclyde’s finest and then the new Police Scotland, the city council this year vetoed the Arches’ late licence, effectively killing off all the events which the venue offered.

Now, once again, only pigeons feel a flutter of excitement when they fly into the gloom of Midland Street.

 

About The Author

Norman Wilson

Writer and journalist Norry Wilson is one of the curators of the Lost Glasgow Facebook page.

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