Published on February 7, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Making an entrance
One of Newcastle’s newest bars knows its A- Z, as Ian Young discovers
It might look a whole lot different to high-end Grey Street bars but one newly-opened Newcastle venue can go head to head with any of them for style. Alphabetti Theatre Bar, recently relocated from John Dobson Street in the city to a former motorbike accessories shop on St James’ Boulevard, oozes artistic endeavour, down-to-earth atmosphere and no-nonsense creativity.
Alphabetti Theatre – and bar – is a work in progress with a first-floor rehearsal room currently being created along with a costume workshop and spaces to sub-let to artists. Ali Pritchard – founder and artistic director – estimates that the age of the average theatre-going audience across the UK is 40-plus, whereas Alphabetti’s is just 21.
“I’m really proud of that,” he says. “We’re effectively engaging young people.”
And whereas every bar these days has free wifi, Alphabetti goes one step further by offering pre-loved books for sale and a creative corner where adults and children can read or draw. The aim of the theatre bar is to be similar to a European coffee shop that sells beer – and “the best cheese toastie in town” – rather than trying to be a traditional pub and Ali has strong ideas on its product offer.
He says: “Everything we sell has to be locally sourced – especially the beer.”
On the day of my visit the draught beers were Tyne Bank Northern Porter (4.5% abv) and two offerings by Northern Alchemy, including the light, hoppy, orange-hinted Alphabetti Pale (4.1% abv), brewed specially for the theatre. Attention to detail is such that the bar manager Billy Clark helped brew it.
The brewing connection doesn’t end there – Carl Kennedy from Northern Alchemy is also part of the hugely popular Suggestibles comedy outfit which occasionally performs at the Alphabetti venue.
Being a Newcastle United supporter and positioned close to St James’ Park, Ali Pritchard also has his eye on match-day trade with classic football matches on the theatre screen in the pipeline and live music to entertain supporters going to and from the match.
“Best cheese toastie in town” is a big boast, so there’s another challenge for beer lovers.