Wednesday 23 February 2011

The Barley Mow RIP - again...

Arson hunt after Quayside nightspot torched

by Andy Hughes, Evening Chronicle
Feb 21 2011

ARSONISTS were being hunted today after destroying a former Tyneside pub in an attack.

Detectives launched the probe after the blaze tore through the former Stereo Nightclub in City Road, on Newcastle’s Quayside, last night.

The blaze gutted the three-storey building, which was empty, and destroyed the top floor and roof.

The rest of the building, which used to be the Barley Mow pub before being re-named the Frog and Firkin, was severely damaged by smoke and water.

Fire chiefs believe the blaze was started deliberately in two places – the ground floor and second floor.

A Tyne & Wear Fire Service spokesman said: “The furnishings were used to start two fires, the first of which was located on the second floor.

“This fire destroyed that floor and the roof.”

Eighteen firefighters and five fire engines from Colby Court, West Denton and Gateshead spent more than two-and-a-half hours putting out the flames as crowds gathered outside.

Photography student Josh Couchman, who lives in a flat across the street, said: “It was just before 6pm and I was in my room when I heard sirens echoing around the Quayside. Minutes later I could smell smoke in my flat.

“When I looked out the window I could see the old nightclub on fire, the flames were coming through the roof so I went outside and started taking pictures.

“The place was flooded with fire engines and firefighters, who were all trying to put out the flames. It took them a while because the fire was so big.

“The nightclub has been boarded up for ages, I don’t think it’s been used for a while. It’s lucky that no-one was hurt.”

Detectives were today gathering evidence at the scene but insisted the exact cause of the fire had not been established.

A police spokesman said: “At 6.09pm yesterday, police received a report of a fire at a derelict building on City Road, Newcastle.

“Officers attended and the road was closed temporarily between Melbourne Street and Davison Street and from the Quayside to Sallyport.

“Inquiries are ongoing into the cause of the fire.”

A Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service spokesman added: “Firefighters were called to the incident at 5.45pm and were on scene until 8.10pm. There were no persons reported trapped and the police were informed.”

Stereo was an award-winning bar before it closed last year and has remained unoccupied since.

Anyone who has information about the cause of the fire should call Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043.

The Barley Mow used to be a great pub with a somewhat Bohemian air. Populated by students, ex-students, wannabe students and that old guy with the harmonica and the dog that would entertain/annoy you for the price of a pint - of rather good beer, too, I seem to recall. The only drawback I remember was that the upstairs toilet was one of the worst in Newcastle. Shitty would be an apt word for it. Still, a small price to pay...

Hard to believe that students would go to such a place and drink real ale when we live in an era when pouring cheap blue vodka in your eyes on mummy and daddy's expense account is all the rage, but it did happen. I was there.

Those were the days before Newcastle was being marketed as 'party city' to attract stag and hen parties and people from Blackpool looking for somewhere more sophisticated. There were several decent bars around the area - nearly all of them are gone.

At some point, as the Quayside became more developed and smartened up, more bars opened towards the west and the Barley was taken over by the Frog and Firkin chain and renamed FOG and Firkin (that's 'FOG', Chronic writer, 'FOG'). It was never the same. Customers drifted away and the place was lifeless.

Next came Stereo. Stereo? Never been there and never had the desire to be there. By that time, of course, the 'smart' business crowd preferred to be ripped off at The Pitcher and Piano and be distracted by the Eastern European prostitutes from the new blocks of flats across the Millennium Bridge - or they'd moved along the Quayside to the delights of Jimmyz and the Quilted Camel (fortunately leaving favourite FNB haunts well alone).

And then... Well, too many bars, I guess. The Labour council encouraged the development of bars along Osborne Road, allegedly to teach the people of Jesmond a lesson for repeatedly electing the city's only Tory councillor and to capture both the increasing population of student drinkers and the more middle-aged crowd from Gosforth and the coast who associate sophistication with drinking shit beer outside, next to busy a road. This was also the era of the Gate, which attracted the wealthier younger drinkers who like breathing in recycled air, and finally, the opening of a series of bars on Collingwood Street that were originally intended to attract upmarket drinkers, but which were full of the usual suspects in no time at all.

The Bigg Market remains popular with a certain crowd of sixteen-eighteen year-olds and their parents can be found in the Old George and what used to be the Blackie Boy. During the week, however, some of the bars are closed and those that aren't, are, I suspect kept open only for the benefit of the aforementioned vodka-swilling students who buy three shots for the price of one, whatever that means...

Nightclubs on the Quayside have closed down or only open for a few nights a week. Last time I walked back across the Tyne Bridge from the beloved Central, there were more taxis on the Quayside than there were people. And that was on a Friday night.

Recession? Yes, to be sure, but (whisper it loudly): too many bars!

As for the fire here, it was noticeable that the Chronic removed the comments section once people started suggesting the possibility of it being an insurance job. The place had, after all, been shut down for a while and an empty building going up in flames isn't exactly an unusual phenomenon on the Quayside. Of course, let me just say that in my opinion, it couldn't possibly happen in such an honest, graft-free business.


  1. I strongly object to the words "Andy Hughes" sullying the good name of this revered blog.

  2. Do they have insurance fires in SoCal?