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Published on October 2, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour

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It’s al owa the place

Swalwell, Gateshead, is perhaps best known to most people as that place you pass through while going to the Metrocentre or heading for Lidl. And it only takes seconds to pass through.

Granted, Swalwell has experienced better days and was not so long ago a thriving village with all the amenities that most communities once boasted, but somehow they have slipped through its grasp.

Now change is afoot, led by pubs, beer, community spirit and the vision of long-term Swalwell residents. A new pub has opened in the former Co-op buildings on Market Lane, right across the street from the thriving Sun Inn. They are under the same ownership – in fact, it was a no-brainer to call the new place Owa The Road.

“What we can offer between our two pubs is ten handpulls and ten ciders – plus a regular beer from the wood which we’ll be sourcing locally,” says Dave Cook, landlord of both. He intends to build trade at the new free-of-tie pub while his wife Sarah concentrates on the Marstons-leased Sun.

“We’ve only been open for three weeks and it’s been great. I’ve seen faces in here (Owa The Road) that I haven’t seen for years – and it’s not hurting the business we have at The Sun at all; it’s holding its own. We’re getting Sun regulars and new customers all the time.

“We’d like to feature all local beers and perhaps have the occasional festival with beers from all over the country – again, between The Sun Inn and Owa The Road – as that could be really successful.”

Owa The Road (like The Sun Inn) is extremely tidy, well thought-out and arranged to maximum advantage for customers and staff. Furniture, fixtures and some fittings have come from a defunct social club (there’s probably an academic study waiting to be written on the demise of “the cleub” via short-sightedness, dreadful stewardship, failure to adapt, and sheer cussedness, and the rise of craft beer, micropubs and microbreweries through simply tuning into contemporary demands.

Repurposed brass footrails have been engineered into handrails and a back bar gantry that shimmers with wow factor first impressions which Dave Cook is particularly proud of – him being a confirmed recycler. Beyond the bar is a separate lounge area which will surely evolve as ideas and opinions are formed and firmed, plus an area further to one side which is simply crying out for a microbrewery.

Dave says: “We’re looking at that for next year – producing beers for ourselves with maybe one or two going out for swaps. It’s really exciting. For now we’re offering beers conditioned in the wood – wooden casks can give beer an extra dimension.”

Dave also reckons he has single-handedly introduced Swalwell to gin – he stocks 32 different brands.

“You wouldn’t believe the number of people who are drinking it,” he says. “I’m really pleased we’ve taken this on, but we are also looking after The Sun Inn. We’ve just replaced the upholstery which was getting on a bit, but now looks great. Running both places gives customers a chance to try two different pubs – if there’s a televised match or music session on at The Sun and people want a bit more peace and quiet – and good old-fashioned conversation – they can just pop over here. People are talking to each other again.

“Owa The Road is a real community pub and it keeps people in the village rather than them going elsewhere. Being free of tie, I can do a lot of things here I can’t do at The Sun, so they both complement each other really well.”


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Alastair Gilmour



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