Design focus: Bag O’ Nails

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While Byres Road, Ashton Lane and Finnieston’s main Argyle Street strip have long been popular hangouts in Glasgow’s West End, One Leisure, the group behind city centre venues Howlin’ Wolf and Slouch hope to lure discerning drinkers further down the road to Partick with their new music bar, Bag O’ Nails. But only if they can get through the new revolving front door!
Named after a Soho rock bar popular in the 60s – and famous for allegedly being the first place to host Jimi Hendrix – Bag O’ Nails has taken up residence in the former Partick Tavern on Dumbarton Road.
A swift renovation taking just two and a half months has completely transformed the time-honoured pub into a cool and spacious bar and restaurant. Much like other properties run by Mark Lappin, Paul Bright, and Gerry Tartaglia, the interior is urban chic with a laid back atmosphere.
img_1679_optThe first big change is the tall, revolving doorway made of dark wood and glass panels, which designer Paul Martin and his team created from scratch. Gerry says, “You have no idea how difficult it is to get a revolving door, so we had to create one.” As well as a striking design feature, it also doubles as a decent drunk repellent, jokes Gerry. He told me, “The revolving door is basically a steward, we don’t need to do anything. I love it, it’s a real talking point. Five adults were playing in it the other day and stopping the door so the others couldn’t get out.”
After negotiating this unusual entrance (for a pub), you’ll find yourself in one of two parts of the pub; the dining area. The smaller of the two rooms, it seats around 60 covers, and its light and airy design incorporates tall windows and light grey wallpapered walls.
The design here is equal parts stylish and minimalist. Silver candelabras illuminate elegant grey and silver wall hangings in a repeating Indian lotus flower design. Another eye-catching feature is a colourful pop-art homage to Hendrix created by local artist Jim Byars, who has completed several Terry Gilliam-inspired artworks for the venue.
Dark grey chairs surround light wooden tables and two generously sized booths in the same colour occupy the space by the window, just right of the revolving door. On the opposite side of the room a white tiled wall with a black border hides the kitchen, which can be spied through the service hatch through which you can see the chefs bustling about. Two wooden pillars boast blackboards detailing daily deals and specials. Sliding windows on the left lead out to a compact beer garden running along the width of the building, where a canopy and possibly graffiti wall art will soon be installed. Says Gerry, “This is the largest beer garden we have in any of our venues. What we wanted to create was somewhere where, say, my mum could come. She might not want to eat in the bigger room, but this would be more comfortable and calmer for her.”
img_0820_fmtThe main bar, which lies adjacent also has its own street entrance on Dumbarton Road helpfully marked out by a giant Monty Python-esque pointed finger graffitied on the building’s exterior. The first thing that hits you in here is the sheer amount of space. Gerry says, “When Paul [Martin, the designer who has also worked on Howlin’ Wolf and Slouch] stripped back the ceiling he actually found three layers of flooring in the bar and five in the restaurant. When Mark saw the timber beams, he immediately said he wanted them left. So that has completely opened up the bar.”
The bar has a capacity of 500, says Gerry, making it One Leisure Group’s biggest venue.
When asked what’s left of The Partick Tavern, Gerry laughs. “The TVs?” he says. “The stonework is original, and probably a couple of fridges but everything else is new and put in by us.” The three TVs placed around the bar indicate Bag O’ Nails will be a popular venue on big match days.
The bar has been moved to take up the majority of the far-right wall, and is encased with striking white, black and green tiles. Gerry says, “The tiles were actually salvaged from a tenement close in Glasgow, as were the ones on the other wall.” He gestures to the back wall that has a mix of pale blue and white tiles that take up part of the wall. The rest of the wall is covered in ruby red panelling. Tall half booths in the same colour line the back wall, which is clad in eye-catching, alternating horizontal strips of red wooden panelling and white and blue tiles. In contrast, the expansive left hand wall of the bar is an interesting mishmash of brickwork and the same blue and white tiles partly covered by cement. This gives the wall an old, unfinished look, which fools you into thinking the tiles have been there for years.
img_0848_fmtGerry says, “Most of the stuff we’ve used is reclaimed. The wooden table tops [that line the back wall] are salvaged floorboards from the old Kelvin Hall. I like to think that Daley Thompson ran on these!” Even the radiators are reclaimed from a local school. The bar’s expansive gantry is made of old copper pipes which support glass shelves set against exposed bricks on one side and red and white tiles on the other. Gerry explains that removing the ceilings uncovered more than just the beams. He says, “We actually discovered a loft up there and found lots of old things. The light fittings that you see hanging above the gantry were actually made from old 70s beer cans. Paul just worked with our workmen to re-use things that he liked and thought would look good.”
The gleaming copper bar top reflects a number of beer taps, and pride of place among them is Rothaus Hefeweizen. Bag O’ Nails now lays claim to being the only bar in Scotland to stock the traditional white German beer on draught (supplied by Dunns Food and Drinks) . The beer selection is huge, which Gerry takes no credit for. He says, “This is our biggest selection yet and is all down to Paul Bright. There’s 60 different bottles of beer in the fridge, including some I haven’t even heard of, it’s amazing. We even have Drygate’s new gluten-free lager.”
Another unusual addition is the bars food offering… “Steamin Dumplins”; hand rolled, stuffed and steamed dumplings which will be served as bar snacks. Just when you thought Partick had enough ‘Steamin Dumplins’, as the Bag O’ Nails Facebook page jokes.
In the middle of the bar area sits a number of blue booths divided by a light fitting – another creation from scrap metal by Paul [Martin]. A wall of windows that runs the length of the building ensures the large space is well lit. A raised section by the windows holds another two red, four-seater booths and two tables surrounded by mismatched seats. Five times a week, the table to the right of the windows will be moved to allow space for live bands, similar to One Leisure’s other venues. By the second door, there is another Byars’ painting, this time a homage to Monty Python. Gerry says, “We’re going to keep adding to the venue, with more pictures. It’s been a labour of love, even on the opening night we were still putting up lights!”
A move to the west end has been on the cards for a while for One Leisure Group. Gerry says, “Mark has talked a lot about coming to Partick and this particular spot for a couple of years but it only became known to me about three months ago. It’s important for us to be part of the local community. It’s been a great start, people have taken us on board right away. We think there’s something happening down here and we’d like to be part of it.”