With music running through its veins and its rough and ready styling fitting the alternative mould, Nation of Shopkeepers is a fashionable bar haunt.
Its foundations were laid by its predecessor The Courtyard pub in the mid-1990s, and now this oddly named bar and gig venue is well established on the city’s bar circuit.
Based in Cookridge Street, the venue has become a destination in itself for students, young professionals and music lovers in spite of its lack of likeminded neighbours.
It sits across from the Electric Press’ mainstream names like All Bar One, Epernay and Revolution, and just down the road from the grungy Carpe Diem, despite sharing more traits with the increasingly popular bars of Leeds’ Northern Quarter such as The Belgrave and Mojo.
As a result Nation of Shopkeepers is one of ‘the’ alternative places to go to in the east side of the city centre.
Its weathered bric-a-brac interior, featuring everything from abstract murals of Tupac and Ice Cube to a glowing neon outline of a cartoon pig, add that quirky charm to a space that melds vintage with alternative and varied music.
It’s a two-sided venue, meaning you can either turn left as you enter into a stage-centred area dotted with mismatched simple leather stools and armchairs or turn right to a raised seating area filled with warm sofas and more mismatched furniture beneath retro glass chandeliers in a space bordered by pastel shaded walls and punctuated by framed pictures.
The whole thing is connected by a lengthy wood-topped bar bejewelled with gleaming beer taps and rustic real ale handpumps that are highlighted by the shining exposed industrial air vents and hanging glasses above.
Bassy low-fi hip hop is played as we take our pews next to the stage, which has been turned into an informal eating area. The bar space is decorated with a playful and artistic mix of murals, posters, bunting and unusual window art such as the swooping owl we’re perched next to.
Its eclectic interior styling strikes the right balance between clutter and charm, and the fact that it has a huge outdoor beer garden adds that extra side to its appeal, particularly in summer.
The venue prides itself on a broad drinks menu, covering the bases with a dozen cocktails, and about as many draught lagers, ciders and real ales including Leeds Best, Addlestones cider and Brooklyn Pennant Ale ‘55.
An immense collection of canned and bottled beers, ciders and ales line the fridges behind the bar, while there are a handful of red, rose, white and sparkling wines and champagnes to choose from.
We plumped for a couple of cocktails, with a refreshing rum and ginger beer Cuban Mule and a top quality sweet white rum, lime and mint Mojito, which were both delicious although we were only offered a limited choice – I suppose, however, that is somewhat forgivable on a Tuesday evening. With the addition of a half of Aspall cider the bill came to a reasonable £12.80 given the quality of the cocktails.
There is much to admire about Nation of Shopkeepers. It’s a welcoming stage for upcoming bands, is effortlessly stylish and offers a fantastic variety of drinks as well as a pretty broad food menu.
Whether you’re a young hipster, beer lover or music fan, Nation of Shopkeepers is a lovably eclectic venue that is deserving of its top reputation.