Following on from a successful sold-out opening weekend we take a look inside the new Dunfermline bar that’s brought the town’s ‘only’ beer garden.
Taking on what was once a popular drinking establishment, a team of four friends have opened a new speakeasy bar, The Haberdashery, with a nod to the city’s linen industry of the 18th century that made much of the town into what it is today.
Following a hugely successful fully-booked weekend at their premises on New Row, the team are thrilled that they’ve been able to bring the town its only beer garden and provide a new place for locals to meet up and socialise.
One of the owners, Rachel Christie, says that the idea for her and her friends to open up the bar came about very quickly.
She said: “Myself and my husband, Fraser Christie, and his friend Darren Fitzsimmons and his partner Gillian O’Neill are all in it together. The four of us just decided to do it after some very quick conversations and it’s led to something very special that I don’t think Dunfermline has got.
“It’s the first time any of us have done this. We’ve never had experience of owning a bar, though my husband has worked in bars before. But he got furloughed last year and I’m a full-time teacher, Darren also owns his own business and Gillian works in schools as well. So it’s either brave or stupid, I can’t decide which one it is!”
The Watering Hole
Bringing something new to the town, Rachel says that locals have been missing the drinks and food offered by the venue’s former name, The Watering Hole, which the team are not associated with despite opening up The Haberdashery in the same building.
Rachel added: “The venue used to be called The Watering Hole, which I think closed around 2016. I moved through to Dunfermline at that time so I never remember it being open but anyone you speak to locally talks about it being one of the first places they went to when they were younger and got a cheap drink from. I keep having to tell people it’s not going to be like the old place was before, it’s now totally different.
“I didn’t know it had a big beer garden until we came to view it. We’d actually looked at another venue before we took this one and it just didn’t fit with what we were trying to do.”
The Haberdashery has taken on a speakeasy feel, with the theme of the bar linked to an important part of Dunfermline’s history.
Rachel said: “Dunfermline’s history is really well-known for the linen quarter, so when we thought about doing the speakeasy theme, we wanted something that would tie into the town’s heritage.
“We thought, ‘why don’t we make a haberdashery? It will look quite cool’. Then from that we thought The Haberdashery was probably a really good name, so we went with that.”
With a vast array of drinks on the menu, both from well-known brands and some signature cocktails, the bar is hoping to become one of the top places in the town to go to for a “reasonably priced drink”.
“In terms of drinks, we’re going for premium brands and spirits. We’ve got a good selection of beers on draft and we’ve got gins, some that people will know and some that people won’t have heard of before,” said Rachel.
“We’ll have about seven or eight cocktails on the menu, all of which will have their own twist and will be our own versions, though we’ll also have the usuals.
“All of the cocktails are just flying out the door. We totally underestimated how many we were going to sell. I think on Saturday we sold 180 alone with another 150 on Sunday.
“The customers are loving our signature ones The Haberdashery and the Crushed Beetle Berry. Those are the most popular ones but we’ve also got our Cat-Face Espresso which is our take on an Espresso Martini.
“We also have Dunfermline’s only beer garden in the town centre. After Covid-19, lots of the local businesses built beer gardens but they’re all kind of on the roadside or on the pavement. We’re the only ones who have a beer garden that’s got grass, with two big marquees up and have plenty of ventilation. We’ve got some heaters too, though the tents seem to hold their heat quite well.”
Despite the venue having a kitchen facility, Rachel and her team aren’t planning to offer customers their own food, and have set up space to allow local street food pop-up vendors to cater at weekends.
For the bar’s opening weekend, Fife-based pizza pop-up Piping Hot Pizza was on hand to feed hungry customers revelling in the reopening of bars and restaurants.
Rachel continued: “We have a kitchen on the premises, but we’re not going to be operating it at the minute. However, we are doing a street food pop-up vendor offering.
“We teamed up with Piping Hot Pizzas for our opening weekend, and we’re looking into other businesses that we can collaborate with every other weekend. They are coming back this Thursday, Friday and Sunday – he sold about 140 pizzas across the weekend.
“The following weekend we’ve got Wolfie’s Street Food coming as the food is proving popular. I think people are interested in food, but the option is there for us to partner up with someone in the kitchen in future, too.”
After opening on Saturday, May 1, bookings for the bar sold out in less than an hour, with this coming weekend also looking to prove popular with locals.
She said: “Our first weekend sold out for bookings in 50 minutes, which was totally unexpected. We pre-launched the booking system on Friday, April 9 to anyone who had signed up for our newsletter. They got an email on the Friday with an ‘earlybird’ link and from that, Friday and Saturday were booked up within 50 minutes, which was pretty outstanding.
“We’re now also fully booked this Sunday (May 9) and Saturday (May 8) is starting to book up quite quickly as well, so the response has been amazing.
“Throughout the weekend we had 400 customers altogether but we can only seat 50 at a time because of the venue’s capacity. We are planning to expand within the next year, hopefully to triple our numbers up about 130 but that will be a work in progress as the year goes on.”
In line with current government restrictions preventing bars and restaurants from allowing alcohol to be consumed indoors, The Haberdashery is operating from its beer garden. When it does open its doors inside, guests will be treated to a space that’s “quite luxurious”.
“At the minute we’re just going to be operating from the beer garden. We’ve got the main bar inside but it’s quite small, whereas the other areas in the pub are quite big. So we’re going to renovate them further down the line but as we can only really operate from outside we just thought we’ll open the bar now and create that buzz.”
“Inside the venue itself are loads of wee rooms, which we’re calling ‘snugs’. Through the back we’re going to have another room that we’ll open up and hopefully use that for when special sporting events are on, such as the Euros.
“The venue itself has lots of different spaces, and we’re going to start opening those rooms up so we can have those and the beer garden at the same time.”