Glasgow venue goes all in with a well-received six-figure overhaul
By Matthew Lynas
WHEN it became clear that Glasgow late night bar Bloc was in need of a refresh, owner John Burns opted to take a “tear off the plaster” approach to the project.
The starting pistol for the Bath Street venue’s refurbishment was wear and tear in the toilets, which venue manager Chris Cusack admitted can take “a bit of a beating” in a venue offering live entertainment every night of the week, ranging from slow jazz to hardcore punk.
“We were planning on doing the toilets and then we thought we’re going to have to close for that anyway and there’s a lot of things we could do, so it sort of started to snowball,” said Cusack.
That snowball rolled into a six-figure root and branch refurbishment.
Despite this, the venue doesn’t look ‘new’ – one of the management’s prerequisites.
“There was an attitude of ‘let’s not be too precious about this’ because it’s about being lived in,” said Cusack, adding that on hearing of the planned revamp, a number of Bloc’s customers contacted the venue suggesting that the floor remain untouched.
So while the bar’s exterior dining and smoking area has gained a new cobbled floor, which Cusack said takes inspiration from Continental Europe, Bloc’s interior remains scuffed under foot – just the way the regulars like it.
Pleasing the bar’s regulars was key to the revamp, according to Cusack, which is why designer Simon Andrade of 10-Design was the man for the job.
“We have a really good personal relationship with the guy and he knows what the bar is about, which is important,” said Cusack.
“So we just kind of banged our heads together; me, him [Simon], John [Burns], and a few other people that are close to the venue, just taking in suggestions from all around and trying to coordinate it into one plan.”
With Gary Finnigan Joinery & Builders commencing work hours after the doors closed on August 10, a full refurbishment of the venue was turned around in time for a soft launch on September 4.
Bloc’s interior has become more diner-friendly with booth seating offering a more enclosed space at the side of the bar, while the tabled area-come-dancefloor has also been revamped with new tables and chairs.
There was also a substantial overhaul of the venue’s audiovisual equipment.
The bar’s sound desk was refurbished complete with new turntables and a laptop stand, while a film screen was installed above the main staging area, expanding the range of live entertainment the venue can offer.
Bloc’s lighting was also renewed, with LEDs provided by Tom Adam at Elkis LED lighting installed behind the bar and in the booth and main areas, all controllable from the sound desk.
As for the toilets, they’ve been given a refresh, complete with artwork from local artist Karen Bones.
It’s not just the fixtures and fittings in Bloc that were overhauled – the bar’s menu was also given a significant revamp which has already proved popular with customers, according to Cusack, who claimed covers doubled in the first week following the relaunch.
The new menu at Bloc is the brainchild of the “Mad Chef” Danny McLaren, whose creations include Irn-Bru pork, tonic ice cream complete with Buckfast syrup and the Durty Burger, a grilled six ounce beef patty with toppings including Smiths Bacon Fries and “Durty Burger gravy”.
“We’re definitely noticing the difference in the amount of food custom,” said Cusack.
To meet the anticipated growth in demand for food, the kitchen at Bloc was equipped with new flat grills and a new pizza oven during the refurb.
However the food offer has proved so popular that a new pizza prep station has since been installed to keep up with demand.
And the new-look interior and dining-friendly layout isn’t just pleasing Bloc regulars.
Since the refurbishment a new highchair has been purchased to meet demand from parents, which Cusack said is clear evidence of the bar’s broadening appeal.