During the week - especially in the summer - Cardiff is very quiet. I went out for a drink on a Tuesday evening in August and we were the only people in the Rummer, Dempseys and the Old Arcade. It was only about 6pm but still it was deathly quiet. If I was a business visitor staying in the Holiday Inn and hitting the bright lights of the city after a hard day conferencing I'd be bitterly disappointed.
As for chain bars I think Cardiff is turning around slowly in this regard but you do have to seek them out. You'd have to have inside knowledge to find Buffalo or Gwdihw for example. The problem is that Cardiff city centre is small and so space is at a premium. Thats where the likes of Walkabout, Spoons, O'Neils etc flex their muscles. I don't see that changing anytime soon. How likely is it that a local businessman will plough £0.5m into converting somewhere in St Mary St into a bar trying to compete with chains, paying a huge rent? Places like Tudor Street, Salisbury Rd, Cathays Terrace etc - city centre fringe - are ripe for development into the type of area where independents can thrive.
CamboDai, if that person you spoke to conducted their research from one place within the city centre, then I'd argue they are pretty bad at their job. You need to stretch out across different parts of the city in order to reduce the variables between cities.
Regarding chain bars..It's worth remembering the definition of the word. Chain means they are in lots of places, so Cardiff cannot particularly stand out, as they are in lots of places.
As it is, I don't think the city is chain bar dominated in the slightest. Mill lane is almost exclusively chain free. You have a lot of Brains pubs (a chain of sorts of course, but not in the recognisable sense) Even on St Mary street you have Kitty Flynns, Cottage, 411club, borough, goat major. Do people walk past these places ignoring them, and then see a Walkabout and suddenly deduce that the city is full of chain bars?
I honestly don't think Cardiff has much of a reliance on chain bars. Certainly no more than other cities. It's not like London where you cannot walk more than a minute from a tube station without a frikkin Pret a manger staring you in the face.
It was a focus group of apprentices who were invited from different colleges, firms, service providers etc for a session discussing pay and training. It was done pretty well, incidentally.
Its interesting that the city is so quiet after work on weeknights. London is pretty crowded in the hours following work with people getting drinks or dinner with colleagues or friends. Maybe Cardiff is more family-oriented or there isn't the same degree of disposable income, or a reliance on the private car means people just can't drink.
I've noticed that Cardiff is only really busy on Saturday nights. When I've been home even Fridays have been pretty dead.
I think that all the postings above contain pertinent points.
I agree with Cambo that to date people have appeared genuinely reticent to stray away from Queen St. I've always found this bizarre for such a compact city centre. From conversations that I've overheard on the train, it seems as if some shoppers (mainly those originating from the Valleys bound trains) start fretting at the prospect of getting off at Central instead of Queen St, as if Central is halfway to Bridgend.
I've often moaned on this forum about Cardiff being chain dominated but(like Karl commented) I think that thankfully it has edged away from it's previous chain dominated nature a bit over the past few years - not before time though.
And finally, as James pointed out, there are in fact still plenty of non chain places to go to if people just open their eyes.
Conversely I went to the Bay straight after work around the same time. I went to the Waterguard (quite packed), the Eli Jenkins (rammed to the rafters) and then had a meal at Bellini's (rather packed). Then went for an ice cream and sat overlooking the Oval Basin (lots of people milling around) and then went for a nightcap in Bar Cwtch (packed). That was on a Weds I think.
Perhaps people have drifted towards the Bay for weekend drinks? Perhaps those with enough disposable income to go out for the night during the week are a little older and would prefer to go somewhere other than town which is really geared up (for the most part) for the 18-30 crowd? Perhaps it was because it was relatively sunny?
One noticeable thing was the breadth of people in the Bay. We were with the kids. In the restaurant were older folks, there were quite a lot of couple in their 30's and lots of people in their 20's, gruff looking old gits sipping a pint of Brains, people just having a stroll and a coffee, people jogging or cycling, presumably there would also be people seeing a show or attending an event etc.
I'm hoping that the city centre will move just a little way towards that type of atmosphere when SD2 opens with it's later trading hours, it's eateries and the incredibly cheap evening parking. I hope it will encourage people to come in with their kids and have a bite to eat, older people to come in for a drink, people to have a coffee, a wander, go to the library etc etc
Sorry Cambo, I didn't mean to be quite as harsh as that sounded..But you cannot conduct a survey on anything to do with a city by standing in one place and making observations. Cities are too organic, and too full of variables for that.
I was out last night with the lady friend. Admittedly there was a concert on at St Davids Hall (Joan Baez) and at the CIA (Michael Ball), although I'd argue that that isn't, and shouldn't be out of the ordinary anyway.
Anyway, Barocco was pretty busy, Tair Pluen was nicely busy (with some really good open mic session guitarists), Mocka lounge was busy. The Old Arcade had a spattering of people in, while the Cottage and small O'Neills looked healthily busy too. Cafe Jazz was very busy.
Obviously, like almost everywhere, Cardiffs busiest night is saturday, and fridays are generally pretty busy too. The weeks can be hit and miss. I think during the week places rely on bands or entertainment, which means those without can be very quiet. I'd say on any given week night town generally will be quiet, but certain venues will be doing well if they put on a good offer.
I guess it's also worth considering that perhaps Cardiff has a surplus of pubs and bars? I'd argue that with a big event at the millennium stadium at least once a month (on average) many pubs survive on this alone, perhaps doing a week or mores worth of trade in a single day. Thus, whereas in some cities, they may have shut, in Cardiff they remain open. This must be the case for example with the City Arms and Model Inn. Both down to earth pubs, quiet in the week, but do a roaring trade when events are on.
Walked past the old slug & lettuce earlier today and I think it had some new signage? Guess it will be open as something as again pretty soon!
They've taken down the Slug and Lettuce sign revealing the old "Bar Mediterranean" sign underneath.
There was a van clearing out furniture when we went past lunchtime.
"Sorry Cambo, I didn't mean to be quite as harsh as that sounded..But you cannot conduct a survey on anything to do with a city by standing in one place and making observations"
James it wasn't a SURVEY. It was a FOCUS GROUP. Where you invite a set of people representative of the population you are interested in (in this case Apprentices) and then interview them. Incidentally, the people who survey on the streets of main cities also have a fairly robust way of doing things. They normally operate what is called statified random sampling and hence get a group that is, on average, representative although of course there will always be margins of error (that fall with the size of the sample).
Cardiff is very heavily reliant on "events" both for general catering/pubs and of course, hotels. Cardiff suffers from a shortage of hotel space during major events - and this can lead to high prices and accusations of profiteering. In some ways hotels seem to hurt themselves here as it might put people off returning to visit if they think the accomodation is expensive.
I've been thinking about how 'chain' dominated Cardiff is at the moment and perhaps we over emphasize the city centre's reliance in this regard.
For example Churchill Way doesn't have any chains - bars or restaurants - as far as I know. Pulse, Wow and the new bar 4Play (what a bloody awful name btw) are all locally owned I think. In Guildford Crescent there are two very successful local restaurants and a rather nice little bar. Likewise in Charles St - all the ouitlets are locally owned as far as I am aware. In Windsor Place take away the Wetherspoons and you have a local restaurant, two independent bars and the locally owned brewery pub. In Park Place you have Henry's but after that Mordaith, Bellini's, Spice Merchant, Incognitos are locally owned. Womamby St is almost all independents apart from another Spoons. Mill Lane (the old part) is all independents. Church St you have 10 Feet Tall, Positano's, Piazza, Old A, Tair Pluen etc.
Just outside the city centre Cathedral Rd is dominanted by some lovely pubs which (I think I'm right in saying) are all owned by Welsh breweries. In Riverside you get the likes of Tafod and Backpackers and another outlet called the Rocking Chair (I think).
It's only St Mary St and Greyfriars Rd that seem to be cain dominated (although in Greyfriars Rd I think Glam is an independent and Fat Cats is a very small chain).
Perhaps this is what visitors see and overwhelmed by the utter awfulness of Walkabout or Life they automatically form the view that Cardiff is chain bar central?
I don't think people do think Cardiff is 'chain dominated'. Some probably do, but you get a 100 people to describe an elephant, and they'll all do so differently.
I think some people like to subscribe to the whole 'clone town' britain idea without really thinking about it. There is an element of truth in it of course, and clearly Cardiff does contain chain bars and restaurants (which is no bad thing) but anyone who thinks it's dominated by them is at best a poor observationist, and at worst a reactionary Daily Mail reading lunatic living in the past.
I think the issue is that the areas that are plugged as "destinations" are very chain dominated:
St Mary's Street (chain bars/clubs)
Brewery Quarter (chain restaurants)
Cafe Quarter (wasn't but with the Library, now is)
increasingly Mermaid Quay
These are the places tourists often go and therefore they get this skewed idea about the city.
I think the clone town thing is in relation to shopping more than pubs and restaurants. In that regard there is a great degree of similarity in the average British High street - M&s, Primark, Top Man, Next etc etc. Whether it was any different in the past I don't know. Queen St has always been dominated by chains as far back as I can remember even if they were different chains - ABC, Odeon, Allders, Marcross, Wimpey are all names I remember from my distant youth. All of them chains.
Also you have to consider if it's a bad thing. You lose a bit of local colour but you get cheaper goods and probably greater choice. Swings and roundabouts I guess.
Money leaving the local economy is also a problem with chains.
I agree about The Brewery Quarter..
Mermaid Quay area though..just of the top of my head I can think of:
Ken picton salon
Pearl of the orient
My recollection of Harbourside in Bristol and Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth (both broadly similar type of developments) are that they were far more chain bar dominated.
Yeah but some of the big restaurants are:
Cafe Naz is a chain (albeit a small one with restaurants in Manchester, Brum, and on Brick Lane, London)
Can anyone put together a list of independents at Harbourside in Bristol and Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth?
But it's hardly dominated by chain restaurants...
If you were to flip a coin to decide where to eat/shop, you are probably twice as likely to go to a local owned or independent place than a chain. I'd say thats not bad odds, and better than similar places.
Lest we forget that Bute St, James St and Mount Stuart Square have almost exclusively independent bars and restaurants. Red Dragon Centre - apart from Old Orleans I think all the bars/restaurants inside are independent (although the cinema and bowling place are obviously part of a bigger chain). Outside it's different with Pizza Hut/Chiquitos etc but thats only to be expected in a family entertainment type place.
A quick look at the websites for Harbourside and Gunwharf Quays seem to suggest that chains represent about two thirds of the bar/restaurant offer. It may be more and it's just the case that I don't recognise some of the names. They also seem to have quite a lot fewer outlets than Mermaid Quay which suprises me as I thought Gunwharf Quays was supposed to be massive.
I just finished reading a book called 'Tescopoly: How One Shop Came Out on Top and Why it Matters'. Which was interesting but not exactly a page turner. It was all about the drawbacks of supermarket domination and clone towns etc. I havent been to a major supermarket since getting about half way through the book.
Suprisingly you can buy it at tesco: http://www.tesco.com/books/product.aspx?R=9781845295110
Yes, you can save £1.60 on the recommended retail price through their online store with next day delivery.
Gunwharf Quay seemed massive to me. It's mainly retail though, so perhaps the restaurants make up a smaller element? It did seem chain-restaurant central though.
I know Harbourside in Bristol far better. It's nicer than Gunwharf Quays, but quite quiet, and a bit haphazardly designed. Again, its chain bar central.
I'm comfortable criticising Mermaid Quay, especially the increasingly naff architecture, but I am very fond of the Bay generally, and for a new development, I really don't think it has a low level of chain bars and restaurants to be honest. Times like this that having a strong local brewer like Brains really helps. Like em or not, theyve been good to Mermaid Quay with Salt and Terrys Nova bar.
I'm not sure why the architecture in Mermaid Quay is 'increasingly naff'? As far as I am aware it's remained pretty much the same since it was built hasn't it?
I'll stick up for MQ. It does it's job superbly. When you are in it's midst when it's packed it is like no other place in Cardiff. A lovely atmosphere far removed from St Mary St etc.
The architecture isn't great and the choice of buff bricks was idiotic. Some parts are very bland whereas other parts are a bit more interesting. It looks a bit too 'busy' from the other side of the Bay and perhaps too low rise.
But that aside is it a success? I think that has to be a resounding yes. Is it popular? Yes again. I'd like something a bit more inspiring to look at but I'd take MQ with it's undeniable buzz and the way it pulls punters to the Bay over Harbourside with it's arguably better architecture any day of the week.
I love the Bay, and don't have a problem with MQ.
I think the architecture looks 'increasingly' naff, as it isn't aging well. Its looking like a child of it's time. Mid 1990's. Two things that I despise is that stupid lighthouse, and those godawful cannons outside the Pierhead building. I know kiddies probably like them, but they are so naff its untrue, and totally out of place.
Generally though I absolutely love the Bay. Hence making it my home, and becoming a committed 'Bay Monkey' (enjoy hanging around there)
I went into that new Captain Scotts pub on Friday (and Saturday ).
It ain't half cheap. A large glass of wine cost me £1.89. I nearly fell off my barstool.
The place had a fairly interesting mix of people. It is rather an unusual set up but it could well be a success should they keep out the 'Kiwis type' crowd. The doormen and bar staff were friendly which is always a plus.
To be fair that area of the harbourside is slap bang in the city centre, it's not like one is short of nearby/ish alternatives, independent or otherwise for places to eat or what have you.
But anyroad any news on The point? or is it closed for good?
The Point will re-open for sure. It's totally set up for it now.
Question is when, and under what guise..
Millers Tavern in Riverside (aka the Coldstream) is boarded up. Hopefully it's for a refurb rather than complete closure. Anyone know?
It closed months ago.
It's a real shame. SO many traditional pubs closing, although I do temper that with the fact that so many new places are also opening (something which tends not to get reported so much)
I think much of this is the changing demographics. Muslims by and large don't drink much, and if they do it tends to be the younger ones, who might not exactly be banging on the door of an old pub like the Millers Tavern.
Somewhere called the Rocking Chair has opened nearby on Lower Cathedral Road. It's always being advertised on RAdio CArdiff, and sounds like a fun place. Thats where I'd go if I lived around there (or the Riverside bar thats part of the youth hostel)
Riverside is a strange one. It's partly a bit of a funky area with new flats, backpacker places, bars and restaurants plus it's as close to the city centre as you can get. But it's also quite heavily populated by Muslims. As you say they don't drink - or at least the devout ones don't.
I used to drink in the Millers. I got kicked out last xmas eve due to the people I was with arguing with the landlady over smoking. She accused my friend of smoking a "herbal" cig. He hadnt, but it all kicked off. The Rocking chair was Rajahs until it suddenly closed in 2003. I played pool there regularly, in fact, I was the last ever patron to leave. Lets just say it changed hands from one group of local characters to another group. Havent been in there since. Bear in mind that Dispenser Gardens is a 24 hour "pharmacy". Anyone opening any kind of business in this area might need "protection". Just sayin'!
Dont think this has been mentioned...
I saw a poster on newport road for this today.
Looks like a big new venue! Anyone know where its going?
I believe its where bar risa used to be.
New weatherspoons details:
The new pub – to be named The Aneurin Bevan after the founder of the NHS – will open on the busy Caerphilly Road roundabout at the north end of the Gabalfa flyover in Cardiff.
It will be hoping for more success than the two doomed curry restaurants that previously occupied the site – Eastern Manor and Mujibs – when it opens on November 20.
Why the Anuerin Bevan? What link does he have to the area? Is it an allusion to the nearby hospital? I thought that was the name of their Tredegar pub in any case.
I guess its a reference to the hospital, and that a lot of students/NHS staff will drink there? It's not entirely out of keeping I guess.
Why not the Cross Inn?
The pub isn't exactly on the doorstep of the hospital either. The Heath, Grape and Olive and the Sports and Social Club are all nearer to the hospital and various halls of residence.
I like the way Spoons look at the locality and try to bring a bit of that to all of their venues(as opposed to the dim witted O'Neills brand) but I reckon they have got it wrong here.
Bar Umm, Cathays Terrace.
£1.79 a pint.
Personally I can't recall such a period of activity in the different bars and pubs of Cardiff. It's changing so quickly..
The old que pasa in the old library is now open as 'The Old Library'. Looks good to be fair, and was very busy the other day.
The End on Salisbury Road is reopening as somewhere being run by the same guys behind Mocka Lounge and North Star. Sounds promising, because the end has been shite for years. The same article (in Buzz magazine) also says somewhere called 'Voltaire' is set to open by the same people.
Down on Mount Stuart Square, the X:it bar has a sign up saying 'opening soon under new management', while the Coal exchange is set to start doing gigs again this week.
Finally, somewhere called 'Cardiff Arts Institute' has opened on PArk PLace. Looks really promising.
Whats happened to Cardiff? It's always been a bit shit for live music, now things seem really to be going somewhere.
The Cardiff Arts Institute is the former Inncognito.
The new name for X:it will be the Company Bar.
Is Company Bar going to be targeted at a certain subsector of society too?
It might be David. It just might be.
Wizard, how do you know these secrets!?
I always think I'm on the ball, but I rely on Buzz!
Some interesting pics of what cardiff arts institute might look like here:
I have an invite to the opening of CAI this evening (if I get back from London in time!) - should be good.
Will let you know how it goes.
I think the venue called 'venue' in the cinema complex opposite the CIA is to be re-named 'the owl' or maybe 'the owl venue'. I guess now SD2 work is done its much more accessible so they are going to push it again.
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