Howlin’ Wolf ain’t singing the blues

Evolution and progression cited as the recipe for SLTN Awards success

By Graeme Murray

EVOLUTION is an important part of the ethos which underpins Glasgow bar The Howlin’ Wolf, but then directors Mark Lappin and Paul Bright believe in steady growth rather than instant world domination.

The success of the Glasgow ‘juke joint’, since it opened in the former Monkey Bar on Bath Street in March 2014,  followed the gradual development of sister venues Maggie May’s on Trongate and Slouch, also on Bath Street.

Mark Lappin and Paul Bright
Managing director Mark Lappin (left) and director and area manager Paul Bright.

It saw The Howlin’ Wolf  triumph at the 2014 SLTN Awards, where it picked up the New Business of the Year award, in association with Innis & Gunn.

The SLTN Award represented a milestone not only for the venue, but for the company as a whole, which took shape a decade ago when Lappin hired Bright to manage Maggie May’s.

The firm expanded with the launch of Slouch, which went on to pick up SLTN’s Late Night Bar of the Year award in 2013.

“Maggie May’s was the first to pick up a nomination [for an SLTN Award] and then Slouch won two years ago, so winning again for Wolf felt really good and we had a lot of reaction from everyone,” said Bright, who is now a director and area manager of Slouch and The Howlin’ Wolf.

The Howlin’ Wolf is a “natural progression” and “evolution” of its sister venues, said Lappin, who is the managing director and owner of the three outlets.

New Business, Howlin Wolf
The Howlin’ Wolf team pick up the SLTN New Business Award for 2014 from Jeremy Houston of Innis & Gunn (left) and host Kevin Bridges.

Music is the common thread between all three outlets, with The Howlin’ Wolf majoring in live blues (the bar takes its name from Chicago blues singer Chester Arthur Burnett, who was known as Howlin’ Wolf).

On food and drink, Lappin said the venue aims to “under sell and over deliver”.

American whiskey, bourbon, Scotch whisky and craft beers are all cited as part of the successful recipe at the 300-capacity bar, which stocks 50 whiskies, 50 gins and dozens of rums from as far afield as Nicaragua.

Unlike Maggie May’s and Slouch, which are tied bars, The Howlin’ Wolf is free of tie, giving it scope to work with a number of suppliers.

Beers are sourced from the likes of Heineken, Tennent’s, Molson Coors, Innis & Gunn, Dameck (Dunns Food & Drinks), West and Matthew Clark.

This range of suppliers, say the directors, is another example of the progressive thread which runs through the company’s ethos.

“The average pub might have three or four suppliers,” said Lappin. “We have got nine or ten and that’s just for drinks. Your drinks range doesn’t have to be generic.”

Although there is an international flavour to the wet side of the operation, Lappin said when it comes to food at The Howlin’ Wolf, locally-sourced produce is the top priority.

“We always buy our food locally and use local suppliers where possible,” he said.

Lappin and Bright credited The Howlin’ Wolf’s 25 staff for their contribution to the ongoing success of the venue, and helping establish it as a popular stop-off for blues acts.

The bar’s programme of blues and soul music has mushroomed.

Initially live acts were scheduled on just two nights. But now they are booked seven nights a week and the venue attracts international touring blues names.

“It’s bringing us closer to The Howlin’ Wolf name,” said Bright.

“We’ve booked someone who used to play with Howlin’ Wolf and we also hope to bring Muddy Waters’ son here too.”