It didn’t come as too big a surprise to hear that DRG, the group owned by Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta, had taken over the former Trading House next door to their St Vincent Place premises Anchor Line and Atlantic. It re-opened last month as The Citizen after the former Glasgow paper of the same name. A name that I am quite familiar with as my father worked at the very same newspaper in 1959.
Mario Gizzi told DRAM, “We really had to buy it. Either that someone else would have come have come in and bought it instead. Now we have a wee circuit here.”
Luckily for DRG when The New World Trading Company Trading House converted this former bank into The Trading House they did a good job, and much of the layout and period detail had already been restored.
The designers behind The Citizen have kept the original features and augmented them with a fresh new, vibrant and classy look with more than a nod to its newspaper ties. Explains Tony Conetta, “This street really has so much history behind it. We were able to bring it to life in Anchor Line and at Atlantic and we have done the same here. It’s another story for us that is all about celebrating the history of Glasgow and its citizens.”
He continues, “We have some great stuff here. For instance we put out feelers for memorabilia and a photographer called Stuart Fair, who originally worked for The Citizen, but who now lives in France, sent us lots of original pictures. These have gone some way to re-creating what I like to think of as a contemporary press bar. We have montage in the restaurant of citizens of Glasgow and some large contemporary pictures on the walls but we also commissioned Ranald McColl to create various portraits of press characters.”
One of the portraits is displayed in the Editor’s Suite and the others hang to the right of the main bar – they are titled ‘Editor’, ‘Photographer’ and ‘Reporter’” and although the portraits do not actually represent any particular individuals – one has more than a passing resemblance to well known Glasgow journalist Jack ‘the hat’ Mclean – who actually came into the bar recently, and gave it his nod of approval.
Tony continues, “We have created the bar as a real tribute to Glasgow and we have also put in Glasgow’s favourite beer Tennent’s – and at the moment it is the only place in the world that you can get it brewery fresh – unpasturised – as we have installed its tank beer.”
However Mario admits that it is not the first time he has served tank beer. He explains, “When I worked with my dad at McNees years ago, we had beer tanks – which was really the same principle.”
There are four key areas in The Citizen Bar and Dining Room – the first two are as the name suggests, but there is also an upstairs area and an Editor’s Suite – my favourite area – which is a special room tucked away which is more like a cocktail-style of bar. It boasts parquet flooring, a large rug, blood red winged backed chairs, leather booths and a beautiful cabinet on the right hand wall which extends behind the bar too as a gantry. It was made especially for the Editor’s Suite by contractors Hugh Stirling and it is spectacular. It boasts some 28 small glass fronted lockable boxes and shelves and is made entirely of polished oak with brass inlays.
Explains Tony, “These are private lockers where people can put their exclusive alcohol. We are selling these for an annual fee of £1,000 and we have sold more than 12 so far. We will buy the bottles and customers can draw it down. For instance some lawyers or accountants may want to purchase a very good bottle of whisky and when they bring their clients here they can treat them to their special bottle. Drinks companies too can put in very exclusive bottles and bring customers here to try it. We have already got some top brands in including a bottle worth £3,500.
Says Angus Alston of Hugh Stirling, “We are very proud of the quality of fit out in the Editor’s Suite. It was cold and soulless before and now it is warm and inviting.” He continues, “The whole job was a pleasure to work on. It was a good team and everyone worked well together – it was a collective of skilled tradesmen from the Iron work created by Mike Peden to the tradesmen who did the marble bar tops and of course the mosaictiled floor in the main bar which is quite spectacular.”
This brings us back to the main bar itself – which benefits from the light that comes in from the huge original arched windows. Beside the windows there are now three fixed seating booths in a rich dark pink velvet-like upholstery, which contrast vividly with the petrol/teal green upholstered high stools and high chairs used throughout the bar, (reminiscent of the visors that old newpaper editors used to wear). The uphostelry was all done by LECS This is set off, of course, by the beautiful mosaic floor, which looks like it has been there for ever, but which replaces the rustic timber which was there before.
Above the bar, suspended from a wrought iron fitting attached to the original buildings pillars, are spectacular large glass globes which have a gold strand that sweeps round them. There are three of these fittings along the bar – attached to the navy pillars, and in between there are more smaller opaque globes. The bar itself has been refreshed with a Verde Guatemala marble top inset with brass. Upstairs the same colours have been used, but because the ceiling is lower this is more of an intimate space. There is a great table which overlooks the downstairs bar, which you could sit at forever – people watching! This area also houses the kitchen – which is partly open plan.
And last, but not least, there is the dining room – which also has a lower ceiling than the main bar, although it is a continuation. The light here comes from stained glass – which features on the back windows and on the wall adjacent to the bar. But one of the most striking features here is the montage of pictures of the citizens of Glasgow.
This is a welcome addition to the Glaswegian bar scene. Well done DRG!