Sunday, 2 November 2014

Monkey Bar Makeover at the Market Lane: still one of the worst pubs in Newcastle? You bet.

'Monkey Bar' in Newcastle has a new organ grinder

Jane Hall
31 October 2014

A Newcastle pub with a special place in the city’s history is looking to the future with a new manager.

For more than 150 years, The Market Lane in Pilgrim Street – known as the Monkey Bar – has been a key fixture in Newcastle’s nightlife. Now, general manager Jamie Logan, 25, hopes to attract the next generation of customers to the venue, which can trace its history back to around 1850.

Originally called the Old Market Lane Hotel, the pub was a popular watering venue for the Irish bricklayers who helped build much of Victorian Newcastle. Legend has it that they used to leave their hods, or monkeys, in the passageway as security against their bar bill – giving the venue the nickname it still bears today.

Jamie joins The Market Lane from Osbornes in Jesmond, where he was assistant manager. “The two venues could not be more different,” he says. “Osbornes is very modern with an extensive cocktail menu, while The Market Lane is very traditional with a solid reputation for selling fantastic real ales. It’s that history and sense of continuity that makes The Market Lane so special. It’s a real pub and that’s why everyone loves it – it’s a little gem.”

The Market Lane is owned by Newcastle-based leisure company The Malhotra Group, which has installed a free jukebox and a pool table and now plans to build on the venue’s reputation for serving quality beers and ales. “Earlier this year we held our first beer and cider festivals at The Runhead Bar and Grill, Ryton and The Sandpiper, Cullercoats,” says Malhotra Group director Atul Malhotra. Through those we forged strong relationships with some of the North East’s finest independent breweries, which we plan to strengthen by offering an unsurpassed selection of locally produced brews at The Market Lane.”

No longer owned by the Sir John Fitzgerald chain (who weren't above embellishing stories about the origin of the names of their pubs, so the hod story may not be true), the pub seems to suffer from identity crisis - how to appeal to new drinkers without pissing off the soaks who seem to be there from lunchtime to closing time. Free juke box and pool table are good ideas (at least for one FNB), as is keeping a couple of pints of real ale - though I wish they'd keep them better. 

This is from the original press release: "In 2015 the company also plans to invest a significant amount of money extending the bar into the neighbouring premises and adding a terrace and restaurant.

“We are very conscious of the pub’s history – now it’s our job to make sure it has an equally long and successful future,” said Atul Malhotra."

Presumably this refers to the buildings at the back that have been under tarpaulin for the past 15 years - so there may be hope, especially for the owners and customers of Paradiso who have had to look out on that pile of shit.

However, I'd be more convinced if the fruit flies weren't still around...

Edit: What a fucking dreadful pub - allegedly.

Edit: several years later - horrible place.

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