Remembering the lost clubs, bars, restaurants and bands of 90s Glasgow

Glasgow is forever tied to the 90s. A decade that set the scene for local pop culture. A golden age for chips ‘n’ cheese on Sauchiehall Street.
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Glasgow in the 90s began with a wave of optimism and urban renewal triggered by being crowned European City of Culture.

The Blue Nile played the opening concert at the new Royal Concert Hall. The St Enoch’s Centre, Italian Centre and Princes Square brought a sense of style and fashion to the city centre.

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Glasgow venues attracted superstar DJs from around the world and our own homegrown indie bands made their mark. This was the future, the digital era was beginning, bringing with it dial-up internet, oversized Nokia mobile phones, Tamagotchi, alcopops and wearing skirts over your jeans.

After thirty years, times have changed, although nobody has told Ocean Colour Scene or Shed Seven who still play sold out Glasgow shows every December.

Let’s take a look back, way back, and remember some of the things you could do in 90s Glasgow that are now a thing of the past.

Glasgow nightclubs of the 90s

Picture: John DevlinPicture: John Devlin
Picture: John Devlin

You can still have a great night out in Glasgow, but in the 90s it seemed like Glasgow was one of the great nightlife capitals of the world. The Tunnel on Mitchell Street, now a Revolution bar, was the city’s first super club. Boy George, Pete Tong, Judge Jules and other leading lights of 90s dance music were among the weekend entertainment.

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If you had been on the dancefloor in 1994 then you might have been able to meet Brad Pitt, who was enjoying a brief romance with Glasgow barmaid Jillian Lamb while filming in the city and staying in One Devonshire Gardens.

Meanwhile, members only club The Apartment hosted private after parties for A-list celebrities including Kylie Minogue, Natalie Umbruglia, Oasis, Simply Red, INXS and the Spice Girls.

Picture: Getty imagesPicture: Getty images
Picture: Getty images

The Arches was one of the most famous dance music venues in the world in the 1990s. It also holds a special place in music history as the place producer pioneers Daft Punk played a very early gig, before their robot personas took over. They also launched a rowdy set on the Renfrew Ferry.

Volcano in Partick was a thriving local nightspot. If you had been there in the 90s you might have seen filming for scenes for the decade’s most influential British film, Trainspotting.

Picture: WikimediaPicture: Wikimedia
Picture: Wikimedia
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Though set in Edinburgh, the film is a time capsule of Glasgow in the 1990s. Cafe D’Jaconelli features in the scene where Spud prepares for a job interview over a milkshake.

The pub where Francis Begbie throws a pint glass was the Crosslands, now The BrewHaus on Queen Margaret Drive. Studio filming used the disused Wills Tobacco cigarette factory, on Alexandra Parade. A scene set in a London hotel room was filmed in the since-demolished George Hotel on Buchanan Street.

The 1990s were an entertainment high point for students at Strathclyde Union, the towerblock of fun on John Street that hosted an annual raucous all night party for almost 2000 people. It has since been replaced by a more low-key student association.

Archaos was a favourite for traffic light discos and a haunt for Glasgow television presenters and football players in its VIP bar. The former club sits closed and awaiting redevelopment.

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Fury Murrys was the place for cheap drinks promos and cheesy tunes. Tin Pan Alley introduced an early taste of underground techno. Cleopatra’s had queues every weekend in the West End. Bonkers for happy hardcore on a Friday. The Art School, drinking cider and dancing to Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb. Optimo at Sub Club on a Sunday. Seattle grunge at The Cathouse.

Also, let’s take a moment to remember the nights at The Temple, transformed into The Shack shortly after the millenium, and downstairs in Trash on a Tuesday, places for sweet drinks and bouncy pop music. A fire claimed the Pitt Street landmark building in 2004, but we remember the 90p vodkas.

The TunnelThe Tunnel
The Tunnel

Students today have their own scene, but they won’t have the chance to queue with their pals at Mr Chips beside The Garage, or make new friends after the dancing in Café Insomnia.

One thing you could do on a night out is have the right to be forgotten. The occasional disposable camera aside, there was not much call for documenting your frantic dance moves to Take That or sharing evidence of sing-songs on the late bus.

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Nineties kids can pretend their nights out were a lot cooler than they were without fear of evidence to contradict them. Glasgow on a weekend is very different now.

Glasgow restaurants in the 1990s

There wasn’t much fine dining to be found in Finnieston in the 1990s but there was the Crème de la Crème. One of the biggest Indian restaurants in Europe, they could seat 1,000 diners in the former Kelvin Cinema on Argyle Street.

A remarkable art deco building became a curry house with a buffet on the balcony. Alongside Koh-I-Noor, it drove a renewed interest in Indian cooking.

Both are now closed and consigned to nineties memories. You can also no longer enjoy fast food on a plate at Wimpy, the UK burger chain that was popular throughout the 90s before disappearing from the city.

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The Rio Café in Partick was a 90s hangover buster and Papingo was among the more stylish places for dinner on Bath Street. Grosvenor Café survives in name but it lacks the indie, quirky spirit of its previous incarnation. Popular West End hangout Spaghetti Factory became Stravaigin during the 1990s.

Dino Ferrari’s was still a familiar landmark on Sauchiehall Street.

Glasgow 90s bands

An exciting thing about the music scene in Glasgow throughout the 90s was that you could suddenly recognise a barman from The Horse Shoe bar or a shoe salesman from Schuh on Top of the Pops, as was the case when Travis got their big break.

Mogwai played their first gig in 13th Note on Glassford Street, what is now Bar Bacchus. Alex Kapranos was one of the music promoters there, before Franz Ferdinand fame.

Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand
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We’d listen to local music on Atlantic 252 or on the Tiger Tim show on Clyde 1. Nineties kids saw the early shows from Belle and Sebastian, Bis, Biffy Clyro, Arab Strap, The Supernaturals, Camera Obscura, Silicone Soul, Teenage Fanclub and The Delgados. They were there when Sub Club felt new and exciting.

Glasgow also has its place in 90s music history as Alan McGee signed Oasis after seeing them perform at King Tut’s in 1993.

What did Glasgow have in the 90s that it doesn’t have now?

The Rock Garden was still a favourite for aspiring musicians, with flavoured vodka shots in the basement. Jedi Bar, the Star Wars themed curiosity at Charing Cross was still open. Little Marco’s at Templeton Carpet factory or Quasar laser tag were the kids parties that everyone wanted to go to.

Music and beer lovers enjoy the first ever 'T in the Park' festival, at Strathclyde Country Park, Glasgow, August 1994Music and beer lovers enjoy the first ever 'T in the Park' festival, at Strathclyde Country Park, Glasgow, August 1994
Music and beer lovers enjoy the first ever 'T in the Park' festival, at Strathclyde Country Park, Glasgow, August 1994

T in the Park seemed like the most exciting summer festival imaginable. The Odeon on Renfield Street hosted the occasional film premiere with male celebrities turning up in tartan suits.

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We watched Small Faces and The Crow Road, both starring Joseph McFadden. Rab C Nesbitt was still a local philosopher of note and at the start of the decade Willie Melvin in City Lights was still trying to get his novel published, My Childhood Up A Close.

Students from the Glasgow School of Art rehearse ahead of their annual fashion show in 1999Students from the Glasgow School of Art rehearse ahead of their annual fashion show in 1999
Students from the Glasgow School of Art rehearse ahead of their annual fashion show in 1999

You could rent a video from Azad Video, or just pick up a copy from Paddy’s Market. Glasgow had a zoo. Weans were still being born at the Rottenrow. Couples met each other outside BHS, you’d get messages from Somerfield and Safeway.

Add Haggs Castle and the Transport Museum to the landmarks that are no longer around. And whatever happened to Glens Hutchison Robertson and Stepek?

Nostalgia is inevitable after thirty years, thinking of a time that is still alive in people’s memories. Though the places may have changed, Glasgow still remains Glasgow.

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