Opening a bar during a pandemic and on the day that a 10pm curfew came into force was probably not what the licensees of the former Mercantile pub in Dundee had in mind when they began an ambitious refurbishment last year.
Following an investment of £630,000 to refurbish the premises, The Barrelman in Commercial Street opened its doors today with Tommy and Jacqueline Fox at the helm – four years after the Mercantile closed.
The Grade A listed building, which had fallen into disrepair during its closure, has been transformed into a stylish bar offering food and drink and, when things return to normal, entertainment by Heineken-owned Star Pubs and Bars.
A total of 25 jobs have been created with the opening which was delayed from April due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The investment has given The Barrelman a stunning contemporary design with exposed brickwork, wooden floors and a glass stage plus a subtle nautical vibe in its quirky artwork and features.
Spread over three floors, it comfortably holds 120 even with social distancing. The venue boasts a bar, dining area, zones with booths and soft seating and a mezzanine-level function space as well as outside café style seating.
Other changes include new toilets, a new kitchen and massive floor to ceiling windows.
Tommy said: “Local interest has been huge. It’s exciting to be finally opening. The Barrelman looks totally different to anywhere else in Dundee now. Anyone who comes is blown away; they can’t believe it’s the same place.
“The centre of Dundee is picking up again but with bars and restaurants operating at reduced capacity, it’s difficult to get into many places.
“We feel very fortunate that The Barrelman is such a big airy venue where customers can easily space out. It can accommodate 120, so people can safely enjoy drinks, a meal or a great night out in a fantastic atmosphere with a social buzz around them.”
Meals at The Barrelman will use locally-sourced produce from Angus farms and the city’s butchers and fishmongers. The menu will offer contemporary Scottish dishes, pub classics with a modern twist and a variety of small plates. The drinks range will span premium lagers and craft beers, a superb selection of wines, spirits and cocktails and barista coffee.
Anyone who comes is blown away; they can’t believe it’s the same place.
Tommy and Jacqueline have put a host of safety measures in place to keep customers and staff safe during the current Covid-19 restrictions.
Customers will be greeted at the door and shown to their tables, which will be sanitised between every use. While booking is encouraged, there will be an allocation of tables for walk-in customers, too.
Brian Davidson, Star Pubs & Bars operations director for Scotland, said: “Tommy and Jacqueline are highly professional operators with great vision and we wish them well.
“The Barrelman is certainly worth the wait – it looks amazing and it’s totally unique. This is a major development that will really add to Commercial Street and the centre of Dundee.”
The new name pays tribute to the history of the city of Dundee. A barrelman was the person stationed in a barrel on the foremasts of early oceangoing vessels to help with navigation.
There would have been a barrelman on the RRS Discovery, so the name brings together Dundee’s seafaring past and the Foxs’ vision of exploring new flavours with customers at the pub.
The building, which dates back to 1871, has housed various businesses over the years including a bank and Alex Smith Stores – which is still remembered by many – and the Horseshoe Bar.