The problem with refurbishing a classic pub like Glasgow’s Drum and Monkey is, how do you keep its charm but bring it up to date and give it a contemporary feel? The pub, which comes under Mitchells & Butler’s Nicolson’s pub brand banner, has been a popular institution in the city centre since it opened in the mid-90’s, but with the quality of the competition nearby, it certainly needed a refresh. And that’s exactly what Pacific Building, the project contractors, have done.
The charm of the old bank building has been retained, its architectural features have been brought back to life, and the pub has been given a more spacious and airy feel. The first thing that is apparent when you walk in is that the entrance appears larger. This is because it used to have two raised areas – one on the left and a large raised area on the right – that tended to cause a bottleneck. But now the one on the right has been removed and the floor levelled and the balustrade on the left has been moved, with the stairs to the area being moved to just beside the door.
Says Manager Bryan Murrin, “When you came into the bar there was a real pinch point. And some people came in and would walk out again because they thought it was too busy.”
Now, the area to the right has a few posing tables and a tank beer installation from Innis & Gunn. In fact, Bryan tells me they call this spot the ‘Innis and Gunn area’, because at least one of the posing tables features all the components that go into making beer – hops and malts – under the glass top of the table! To date, the beer has gone down a storm with the pub getting through a tank over a weekend.
The bar here has also been changed and customers can now get served at it. Bryan explains, “The bar is exactly the same shape [it’s a magnificent island bar] but we used to have the glass washers situated behind a partition, which meant we didn’t serve from the right. Now we can. In fact, we have been able to add another nine pumps and two ale pumps and an extra till. We now have three tills which means we are not queuing to use them and therefore we are generating more cash. We’ve also got a new back bar and bar top, and all the wood has been french polished, which has improved the bar area itself.”
One of the other key changes is that there is now a hard wooden floor, supplied and fitted by GL Flooring, which extends throughout the main bar area and through into the snug, which also makes the pub look larger and brighter.
Says Bryan, “The snug used to be carpeted and was used as a restaurant. The pub could be full but people wouldn’t go into that area, even for a drink. Now we have taken away the carpet, we have redecorated and made the area look a lot brighter and we have polished up the wood and added more colourful bric-a-brac. We also no longer do table service through there. It’s now an extension of the bar.”
The massive fireplace has also been cleaned up, and by removing the former high posing tables and putting in tables that you can sit and dine at, the whole area has been opened up and the fireplace is much more noticeable. Mind you, it is absolutely massive so it is hard to miss!
Says Bryan, “We considered making it a working fire, but it was going to be very expensive. So we have cleaned it up and we have put candles in.”
The stairs have also been moved away from the fire area which now allows people to sit comfortably beside it, without being jostled.
The pub’s features date back to the origins of the 20th-century building, and were restored by Pacific. The ornate ceiling cornicing was refreshed, the oak panelling was french polished and the marble columns were cleaned. All the chandeliers have been replaced throughout and the ceiling, formerly dark red, was painted cream with details brought out in gold. New tables, leather chairs have been brought in and new tartan carpets have been laid in the raised areas.
The total spend was in the region of £300K but Bryan says there are still a few things to do – like introduce some new lamps and change some of the tables that he feels are too light in colour to darker ones.
Bryan adds, “People were worried when we said we were refurbishing. They said ‘don’t touch the bar!’ We did consider putting in a flat bar because we could have fitted in more tables. But at the end of the day, when it comes to working and talking to people the bar, we have worked really well and a flat bar would have meant we were the same as everywhere else. People actually like standing at our bar.”
It’s not just the bar that has been totally refreshed, the menu has too. Now the Drum & Monkey is garnering a reputation for great pies and Sunday Roast is on the menu. Says Bryan, “We’ve been really busy since we re-opened, and the feedback has been incredibly positive.”
I’m not surprised. Pacific Building has managed to retain the character for which the Drum & Monkey is famous while at the same time portraying a fresh new appearance. This tired old lady is back with a vengeance.