02 Oct A night on the town in Glasgow is changing
A few drinks, a chat with friends and, maybe, some dancing. Until recently, a night on the tiles stuck to a well recognised format.
But new venues are offering an alternative. Bowling, crazy golf and axe-throwing have all joined the city’s nightlife mix.
Until relatively recently, painting the town red in Glasgow would mean rounding up your chums and visiting a few bars with perhaps a visit to a dance hall/disco/nightclub (delete according to your age) to finish things off.
Over the decades, the details might have changed but the basics remained the same. The drinks on offer have certainly become more sophisticated. Craft beer and cocktails have, in many bars, replaced keg beer and warm white wine. Wide selections of single malt whisky and a boom in Scottish gin have all altered the look of the city’s gantries. The pie cage on the bar has gone and a chalkboard showing that day’s selection of gourmet tapas may sit in its place.
However, window dressing aside, the fundamentals were always conversation, drinks and perhaps an ill-advised dance.
New wave entertainment
Over the last couple of years, a new wave of entertainment options have joined the throng. Designed to appeal mainly to a younger cohort – Millennials and Gen Z – these new attractions add other activities to the choices available on a night out.
Opening shortly on Glassford Street is Bowlarama. Billed as a spot for dining, drinking, bowling and dancing, it is primarily a ten pin bowling venue with a late licence and a promise to ‘let the good times bowl’.
What they all have in common is that they offer the opportunity for something known as ‘competitive socialising’. Already a strong trend in US cities and London, it is partly driven by a rise in the number of 18-30 year-olds who either don’t drink or drink very little. If the old school custom of socialising over alcohol doesn’t appeal then socialising over quirky sports and activities provides an alternative.
Join the Flight Club
Clever marketing and positioning helps. Existing companies that specialise in competitive socialising include Swingers (indoor golf), Bounce (table tennis) and Flight Club (darts).
How enduring their appeal might be is a moot point. But then the night economy of Glasgow has always been a fickle beast. Entertainment fashions have come and gone over the hundred or so years.
Arguably, no venue in Glasgow better illustrates this than the ABC on Sauchiehall Street. Very badly damaged by the second Glasgow School of Art in June 2018, the building opened in 1875 and began life showing diaromas. These were historical scenes or landscapes on a rotating stage.
In 1885, it became Hubner’s Ice Skating before screening Glasgow’s first ever film show in 1896. After that it was a Hippodrome with circus ring (called Hengler’s Circus, hence the name of the nearby Weatherspoons bar).
It then became a dancehall, the Waldorf Palais de Dance (1927-29), before it became the Regal cinema (1929), and then the ABC cinema (1967). It opened as a music venue in 2005.
Will it rise again from the flames? Who knows but if it does, perhaps it will be dedicated to some new leisure craze yet to be invented?
We’ve always thought that combining darts, skateboarding and a couple of beers could make for a memorable night.