Football, boxing and rugby brings punters together like nothing else in Leeds.
Despite this the dedicated sports bar is arguably quite a rare commodity in the city as it’s a concept that can immediately put people off while pulling others in.
Aside from Shooters, in The Headrow, The Elbow Room, in Call Lane, Headingley’s The Box, and of course plenty of inner city big screen-clad pubs, the classic sports bar is somewhat of a niche.
Henleys Sports Bar and Grill is an unsophisticated attempt to get in on the act. It’s full of projector screens, ample seating and its entrance has Sky Sports and Box Nation plastered all over it.
The New Briggate venue, which sits above the Lemongrass Thai restaurant and across from the likes of Sandinista and The Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds’ Northern Quarter, is a relatively new addition having had a slightly chequered past.
Rewind 18 months and 68 New Briggate was hitting the headlines as a ‘gentlemen’s club’ bidding to expand, but once that failed to materialise it eventually became a bar.
On our Friday evening visit we wandered up to Henleys’ first floor bar area to find a simple wooden bar fitted with four draught beer pumps aside a mismatched collection of seating and tables on a laminate floor in front of a massive projector screen displaying rugby league.
We were told we could buy our drinks here and make our way up to the second floor which did not have a working bar, but did at least have some punters in.
Between our mismatched second floor leather sofas was a metal topped silver table complete with a built-in champagne bucket, which would quite easily fit in at a gentlemen’s club.
There were even still security cameras bordering the whole of the upstairs and there were marks and holes in the second floor ceiling that seem to suggest where the dance poles used to be.
It’s an unusual space that seems to have had a quite quick and uncomplicated transformation from its former use as ‘Black Diamond Gentlemen’s Club’.
The whole venue is void of sunlight thanks to its covered over windows, and decor-wise the first and second floor areas are quite bland spaces with random furniture varying from a purple cubed corner sofa to chintzy metal and red leather stools encased between simple blue, grey and green painted walls.
We found a young student crowd enjoying a game of pool in the second floor space, which also features a boxing machine and bandit machine, to nightclub pop music from the likes of Iggy Azalea and MNEK.
The menu at Henleys is pretty simple, consisting mainly of draught beers and ciders, well-stocked beer fridges and a basic wines and spirits selection. I was also assured a cocktail menu was in the pipeline.
We went for pints of Kronenbourg lager and Strongbow cider as well as a pair of small cans of strawberry and lime Kopparberg ciders, which brought the bill to a good value £11.
Henleys is a strange and uncomplicated mix of beers, cider, wine and sports in an odd post strip-club hangover of a space.
The intention of adding to the sports bar offering in Leeds is a valid one, especially in the burgeoning Northern Quarter, but work needs to be done to turn this into an attractive venue.