Glasgow rock n’ roll institution Maggie Mays has turned up the volume with a £400k makeover commissioned by Oli Norman and Stephen White, who bought over the popular Merchant City haunt from Colin Beattie last September.
With the goal of giving the late night bar/restaurant/club an amped up new look without losing its edgy, rock n’ roll atmosphere, they enlisted local interior design company Surface ID to give the place a major facelift – a first since it opened as Maggie’s in 2006.
The majority of the venue has been completely ripped out and refurbished. An eight-week job by Surface ID and shop fitters Dimension was made more challenging as the bar remained open at weekends. Surface ID co-director Claire Kinna told DRAM, “We worked Monday to Thursday and then turned it back into Maggie’s trading bar in time for the weekend and started again on Sunday night. It was a phenomenal amount of work, especially for Dimension, but essential as the owners didn’t want to lose the Maggie’s crowd.”
Claire admitted that undertaking such a drastic refurbishment of a venue that’s been popular in the city for over two decades was another challenge. She added, “The good thing about Maggie’s is you get everyone from students to grannies coming here so we didn’t want to alienate anyone. It’s a big change. We tried to keep it as Maggie’s but give it more rock and roll feel and keep it “sleazy” for want of a better word, and give it some much-needed TLC. Mostly everything is new, from the furniture to the sound system to the loos.”
The venue still lives and breathes music but there’s now an emphasis on food as the new Maggie’s Buns menu is rolled out. The new food offering, which focuses on an American diner-style menu, has a new dining area to match. The restaurant is now open plan with a bright, laid-back and slightly industrial feel and has a mix of tall tables and comfy leather booths and seats upholstered in blue, red and turquoise by Lecs Upholstery to match the Maggie’s Buns branding.
A huge canopy of metal rods and naked light bulbs created by Scott Associates Sculptures & Design Lt is a real feature in here and draws the eye to open kitchen and back wall, where tattooed Maggie herself makes an appearance beside a repeat pattern of the Maggie’s Buns branding.
Claire said, “Oli really wanted to push the food so we needed to crack the restaurant. Before it was not only separate from the bar but completely at odds with the design and very traditional. We’ve opened it out as much as possible and have gone for a laid back look that’s somewhere between a rock bar and an American diner. It’s a really different, cool space.”
The main bar’s layout is largely the same; brightened with a grey and white colour scheme and opened out with plenty more seating available. There’s American diner style booths, each with its own TV screen, durable bench seating made from huge chunks of treated timber and metal girders and a few high tables. Comfortable seating between the bar and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the Trongate is designed for customers to enjoy a coffee or food during the day.
The new seating has beefed up the number of covers from 184 to 302. Claire explained, “The idea was that customers can enjoy the Maggie’s Buns menu anywhere in the venue so we’ve given customers more choice in terms of seating with the mix of booths and big sharing tables which are great for when the place is mobbed.”
With live music remaining the soul of Maggie May’s (it will now feature seven nights a week), a new corner stage has been added in the bar with a colourful backdrop of vinyl records and album sleeves from iconic bands including Iron Maiden and Maggie May singer Rod Stewart.
A big investment has been sunk into a powerful new sound system installed by SSUK, who have also hooked up a live video feed from the bar to multiple TV screens dotted around the venue that show everything from sport to a live stream of gigs playing upstairs or down in the club.
The bar also has a new look. Its deep red mahogany top has been blasted and restrained grey for a brighter finish, and is clad with a mix of grey reclaimed tiles and rows of up-cycled wooden broom handles. A gantry made from heavy chains and metal shelves is another eye-catching feature.
Keeping with the rock vibe, electric guitars and drum kits snared in fairy lights hang from the walls around the venue and above the stairs that lead down to the basement club, along with a custom red neon light fittings that screams “Get your rocks off”.
Major changes have also been made to the basement club, which has been opened up with more seating added, including, and a new stage area. There’s more music memorabilia here too, with gig posters, instruments, and microphones displayed in metal cages and on the wall above snug red leather booths.
Claire said, “We completely gutted the basement club. There were lots of screens and dividers so we’ve opened up so it can work better as a live venue. There’s big booths so people can eat down here too and we’ve added a new bar gantry with a light up “Rock” sign.”
She added, “It definitely has an edgy, slightly American feel. We wanted to keep what I’d call the “sleaziness” that Maggie’s had so we’ve added red neon lighting that creates the familiar Maggie May’s black and red look that makes me think of an American rock club.”
Regulars have already shared their approval of the new look on Facebook, a sign that those involved in the refurbishment have succeeded in amping up the Maggie’s Glaswegians know and love but still keeping the focus on laid-back dining, live music, sport, late nights and a healthy dose of rock n’ roll.