Have you heard the one about the elephant that walks into a bar? Billy Milligan named Charlie’s Loft, his new place above Finsbay in Milngavie that debuted last month, in honour of one that attempted to get into a pub in the area many moons ago.
“The chief attraction at Craigend Castle Zoo was Charlie the elephant, who lived in the stables block along with his keeper Singh Ibrahim. The pair were inseparable.
“One day Ibrahim decided to go for a drink in one of Milngavie’s pubs on the High Street. As he walked towards the village, he was unaware that Charlie was following and he got stuck in the pub door. It took the local fire brigade to free him.”
There are nods to Charlie everywhere – like carved wooden elephant heads on the beautiful gantry, neon ones, and elephant door handles and knockers.
Billy has a passion for interior design and so was responsible for much of what you see, working very closely with interior designer Yvonne Wilson to come up with his new hybrid concept.
“Yvonne was really helpful. We would bounce ideas off of one another and she was great and the two of us worked really well together, Yvonne having a wee bit more experience than me.”
Billy won the Buzzworks Montpeliers Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year at the Scottish Bar & Pub Awards – a prize including mentorship from David Wither and Colin Blair.
And it so happened that he also consulted with Colin on Charlie’s Loft when it was in the initial planning stages.
“I had a conversation with Colin about what I wanted to do with the loft space above Finsbay because Buzzworks has a similar space at the Vic’s and The Vine in Prestwick.
“I decided that, because of the area and its diverse clientele, a hybrid, multipurpose venue was the best way forward. It had to cater to a variety of customers. For example, the chairs and tables for watching sports on the big screens or entertainment on the stage can be cleared away to open up a dance floor.
“It’s got a 2am entertainment licence – the only one in East Dunbartonshire – and it’s not a bar or a club or a restaurant, it’s a little bit of everything. We also have DJs and live music, digital darts, and a pool room.”
And it was a completely new outfitting job in what was an empty space and because it’s tucked away in a loft, Billy was keen to make it a destination venue that had something special about it to entice customers up the stairs, as well as repurposing furniture from other venues.
“It had to have a wow factor because it’s in a loft so people need encouragement to go up there.
“From a costing point of view, I always try to repurpose items from other places too. The seats in Charlie’s Loft are from So LA, the bar front from The Drake, and a lot of stuff behind the bar from another Glasgow venue, Strathclyde University Union.”
But they also built some of it from scratch – like the beautiful wooden gantry.
“The gantry has lots of intricacies and we wanted to make it look like it had been there for a while, so we varnished it to make it look older.”
The floor catches your eye too and is attracting a lot of attention and comments from customers, and Billy wanted this to be a departure from normal parquet flooring.
“It’s actually herringbone composite flooring. I suggested mixing up two or three different kinds and the supplier had never done that before and I think that it gives it such an eclectic feel and loads of people tell me they like it.”
The design highlight has got to be all the elephants. They’re fun and give the design a story to tell. There’s also a lot of neon, including the la vie en rose sign and one on the ceiling that changes colour.
The floral mural also really pops out and was mainly Yvonne’s handiwork.
The black and white floor, the teal velvet stools, the gold metal chairs, the beautiful gantry are all some of the major standouts too in what is a cool space without trying too hard.