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My Kind of Town: Do you remember Sinatra’s bar in Dundee?

Sinatra's was hugely popular in Dundee after opening in 1981.
Sinatra's was hugely popular in Dundee after opening in 1981.

Sinatra’s Bar in King Street opened 40 years ago and became a popular haunt for Dundee revellers for three decades.

Sinatra’s was the brainchild of local businessman Ian Hindmarsh whose plan was to provide an “outstandingly comfortable and stylish lounge bar for Dundonians”.

Mr Hindmarsh was on holiday on the Costa Del Sol when he saw a place called Sinatra’s bar and thought it would be a great name for a pub.

Advertising feature put the bar in the superstar class

The image of Sinatra adorned virtually every wall in the Dundee pub with a choice of cocktails with such titles as My Way and Strangers in the Night.

The legendary Frank Sinatra.

A two-page advertising feature in The Evening Telegraph in March 1981 said Dundee’s latest city centre bar was in the superstar class.

It read: “The very name ‘Sinatra’ immediately brings to mind a man who has been at the top of his field of entertainment for just about as long as anybody can remember.

“And that is probably because he has more of what is essential to superstardom than most of his rivals.

“Indeed, his rendering of the song which includes the line ‘You either got or you haven’t got style’ is undoubtedly better known than any other version.

“And when it comes to style and class, Dundee’s latest lounge bar, Sinatra’s in King Street, is all set to follow the superstar’s lead.”

Sinatra’s famous exterior which was visited by thousands of revellers over three decades.

The advert made clear the Dundee pub was not owned by the legendary crooner just in case anyone thought the Chairman of the Board had added it to a property portfolio which included real estate on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Palm Springs.

Record number of pubs and clubs in Dundee in 1981

“From the moment you walk in through the main entrance at the bottom of King Street, you have a feeling of being somewhere just that bit out the ordinary,” it continued.

“At the top of a flight of stone steps leading up from the street is a large porch, fronted by a magnificent polished wooden door flanked by ornamental trees.”

The advertisement highlighted the fact that the furthest away you could sit from the distinctive central bar area was only about 20 feet which meant there was “less chance of spillage in the journey from bar to resting place”.

Sinatra’s was hugely popular for functions and birthday parties before its closure in 2011.

The opening of Sinatra’s happened at a time when there were a record number of licensed premises with 152 pubs and 112 clubs operating in Dundee.

Established publicans were concerned for their livelihood which led to the Scottish Licensed Trade Association asking the Scottish Secretary of State to intervene.

Sinatra’s shortly before it disappeared for good after closing in 2011.

Sinatra’s remained popular for almost three decades before closing in 2011 and plans were approved in 2016 to turn the club into 12 high-end flats.

It kept its old tag though.

The bus stop outside the building is still known by Dundonians as Sinatra’s.

Sinatra performed in Dundee in 1953

Frank Sinatra never did pop by for a drink in the pub which was named after him but he did perform two shows in Dundee in 1953.

Sinatra was bitten by the golf bug and was lured across the Atlantic to watch Ben Hogan at the 1953 Open at Carnoustie and did a few gigs to earn some pocket money.

Frank Sinatra at The Open, Carnoustie in 1953.

Organised by Glasgow theatrical agency Chalmers Wood, under 600 people attended the 6.15pm show.

He made sure his Dundee fans in the cheap seats weren’t strangers in the night and invited them to “come down where I can see you”.

They took him at his word and invaded the empty 15 shilling seats at the front of the stage at the venue which was originally capable of seating 3,300 people.

Dundee audience were ‘wonderfully enthusiastic’

His two performances in Dundee were backed by Billy Ternent and his Orchestra, a high quality band who were renowned among professional session players for the difficulty of their arrangements.

The second house at 8.45pm attracted 1,189 fans.

Sinatra was undeterred by the poor turnout and was full of praise for the reception he received, describing the crowd as “wonderfully enthusiastic”.

On the left is Miss Elsie Thomson and on the right is Miss May Graham from Fintry who got autographs from Sinatra at the Dundee gig.

“That happens in other cities,” he said.

“What really matters is their response and it was wonderful.

“I have a very high opinion of Scottish audiences.”

Sinatra brought the house down with 13-song set

Despite the onset of a cold and the big arena Sinatra said the acoustics were splendid.

He had the fans in raptures with a 13-song, 45 minute set with a pause in between for a cup of tea.

The set highlights included Birth of the Blues, Nancy With the Laughing Face, You’ll Never Walk Alone and Ole Man River.

The tickets for both performances ranged between five shillings and 15 shillings which might have explained why there were so few people in attendance.

One letter writer afterwards contacted the local press and said whoever arranged the concert “must have been optimistic regarding his fans finances”.

She said: “Teenagers form the largest part of his following, with the result that they just couldn’t afford the Caird Hall prices.

“A popular all-over price would have filled the hall easily with young people,”

Sinatra returned to Scotland in 1990 aged 74 to perform a concert at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow.

Some 11,000 fans paid in excess of £75 a ticket to catch the crooner take to the stage for what was believed to have been his last ever UK and one of his last European shows.