Tommy Saxondales of the world, unite, for a new bar has opened in Leeds city centre paying tribute to all things classic rock.
Northern Guitars, which was exclusively a musical instrument shop for decades , has recently re-opened as a pub and cafe while still selling six-strings upstairs. Quite an idea, though a bit of a no-brainer. It’s difficult to tell whether it’s a new venture formed in desperate times where people are turning to the web to buy new instruments, or whether the the owner thought that with Call Lane - one of the city’s ‘main drags’ for revellers, as it were - he was staring a gift horse in the mouth location-wise and thought “if you can’t beat ‘em, join em”.
Either way, it’s a welcome addition to the scene. The trendy establishments of Call Lane are great, and have their time and place (usually around sunrise), but it’s nice to see something a bit more casual on a street dominated by cocktail bars. The somewhat dated signage outside that used to welcome punters has gone, though a neon sign inside reminds people that there are “Guitars Upstairs”.
I’m wondering how many will be inspired to buy one after a few pints, as the odd instrument is also hung up as a showpiece (including a price tag, of course).
The exposed brick walls are daubed with posters or photos of all the greats: Fleetwood Mac, Grateful Dead, Bowie, Bob Dylan, etc. But also featured are snaps in homage to Leeds’s own musical past including legendary venue The Duchess. Tickets from notable gigs in the city from across the decades - RIP Cockpit, which seems to have held so many - are also imprinted on the bar.
Having been in on two consecutive Saturdays (and a weeknight soon after), I can confirm the weekend afternoon playlist more or less consists of just The Clash. So I decided I should stay (boom boom). But the pub also puts on live music every now and then.
It serves cask and keg beer - good to see Leeds Brewery and Kirkstall Brewery featured among them - bottles, can, spirits, coffee, crisps and little cakes. A pint of Leeds Best (4.3 per cent, £5.50 with half a cola and bag of crisps) goes down well, while my friend has half a Kirkstall Framboise (tasty raspberry beer at 3.6 per cent).
A pint of Brooklyn, now a staple of any bar at this end of town, is also a good choice. My opening reference to Saxondale - comedian Steve Coogan’s loveable curmudgeon, middle-aged pseudo-rebel and self-appointed spokesman for ‘real music’ - is entirely not founded though, as there doesn’t seem to be any pretension or music snobbery here.
Staff are very welcoming and although you might need your pint topping up a bit (Saxondale would hate that), there seems to be a genuine eagerness to please. When staff members prop themselves up at the bar and play one of the store’s acoustic guitars, not as a performance but just to themselves, it only feels natural.
There’s been quite a few examples recently of cafe/bars setting up with the dual offer of being a record store. Northern Guitars seems to have taken that one step further with the instruments and, for this reviewer, is a great addition.
Northern Guitars, 41 Call Ln, City Centre, Leeds LS1 7BT