David Stein’s 1703 – a multi-functional venue set in the heart of Dunfermline – boasts three newly-refurbished bars and is an on-going project, with the restaurant and grill and 17 bedrooms next in line for a top-to-toe refurbishment.
The converted church, constructed in 1703 (hence the name), was originally St Michaels and is was originally operated by Castle Leisure, who now lease it to Stein who already has 1912 in Bathgate, 1807 in Linlithgow and 1884 in Bo’Ness and other business ventures including a butcher’s.
David said, “I’d been looking at Dunfermline for a while. It is such a gorgeous place and I think it’s got so much going for it. we adapted the building in such a way and made additons designed to look like they were always there.
“We offer completely different experiences with three different eating venue options and three completely different nights out. We have created a 100-cover steak restaurant, a 200-cover cafe-bar called 1703 Cafe Bar, plus there’s the Absolution Cocktail Bar, which also incorporates a large stage for live music. Then we also have the 250-capciaty German Bier Keller with a 4am licence, showing sports and live music.”
Most of the work was done by David and his small team, meaning everything from tables to to booths and and everything inbetween were hand crafted.
David said of the process, “The biggest challenge we faced was maintaining the charm of the old building. It is something we specialise in, but it’s so worth it as these buildings provide wonderful canvases to create interesting concepts.”
Entering the main doors you find yourself in the Cafe Bar. The venue has maintained its church structure with the very high ceilings. The bar now has an open kitchen, which was put in when David took over in order to provide a casual dining option. It is situated to the left hand side of the bar.
The bar wall has been painted in duck-egg blue, and there is some exposed ducting on the ceiling above and shelving which displays is drinks offering.
It has a variety of fixed seating and free-standing tables, with a
combination of chocolate and caramel coloured upholstery. The back wall features a statement wallpaper that has cogs displayed. There is a small feature wall by the stairs featuring mainly Gin bottles this is a throwback to its Castle Leisure days but now David and his team have added new foliage.
Upstairs is Absolution, the bar over-looks the 1703 Cafe Bar, and this was probably the main reason that he wanted to take over the lease.
He explained, “It was the upstairs bar which really got my attention. I saw nothing but its potential. It’s an amazing space.”
The upstairs bar presents an almost medieval vibe, with exposed brick walls and decorated traditional stone flooring. Designed purely for drinkers and gig-goers, there is plenty of wooden fixed seating and high tables with bar stools. Decorated mirrors cover the back wall and there is plenty of bric-a-brac in the form of ornaments and Chinese parasols.
Facing onto the bar area, across the mezzanine, you can immediately spot the stage area for the live entertainment that the venue provides three times a week. It has been specially created for bands, something that David knows a lot about as he also runs a music promotion company and puts on some 600 gigs throughout East Lothian.
If the front areas are heavenly, the former night-club, which sits to the rear of the building is aptly named Helle, well… Bier Helle, and is the place to come and sin. It is primarily a traditional Bier Halle with a capacity of 200, even the staff are kitted out in the traditional Durdle dress, but there are elements drawn from sports bars and even Apres Ski.
The main area is set with the traditional beer hall tables, which are double panelled, David told us, “I wanted to make sure the tables were sturdy enough to stand on, dance on and even jump on when the football is on.”
I think this sets the tone and atmosphere perfectly. There is a large screen in this area for sports and a stage too. Through to the right is the bar, where there is no natural light neon red and blue lights are used and there is a darts station. To the left of the darts board there are stairs which lead up to another area, which has a bright red pool table. There is also a fruit machine in the back corner of this area.
Says David, “I never thought I would have a fruit machine in one of my venues. But it fitted here.”
Bier Helle also offers traditional German street food, as well as pizzas.
David says there’s plenty more to come from 1703, “We have been so lucky that Fife Council are so progressive and supportive of what we are trying to do here. We have an out of use balcony out the back which they want us to extend for outdoor seating and the 4am license has been great. We are going to get to work on sprucing up the hotel and rooms in the next year as we find our feet.”
By Jocelyn O’Keefe