My very first experiences of going to a rock/metal bar were in a place called The Wheatsheaf. It was situated next to the ice rink at the side of the photography museum. It was autumn 1991 and I was 16. A bunch of my friends had been going to the place for a little while, some of them even younger than me. It was a noisy dark place with what I remember to be a fairly intimidating atmosphere at first. I enjoyed the music, met some cool people there and had some great nights but I never really felt at home like I did in The Mannville. Upstairs was the main bar with the pool table and jukebox and downstairs was a kind of mini nightclub with a DJ and a tiny dance-floor. I eventually grew used to it and visited it occasionally until its closure in 1994. I saw a couple of gigs there but was never involved with the place in any capacity.
A decade later, the venue had been through a number of identity changes and was trading as The Ivy bar. It was owned by a couple of guys who drank in my then local pub The Lord Clyde. Following the closure of The Empress, we were on the lookout for somewhere else to watch live bands and frequent and we approached them about it. The guys were interested in accommodating us. They were up for live music and DJs and even a mixed jukebox but were not up for an out and out “rock pub”. We set about our first foray into booking bands and we quickly learned what worked and what didn’t. We had some pretty good nights but the place barely got chance to get going. Everything we wanted to arrange had to go through the manager at the time and we seemed to have different ideas about what the place was to be. Pretty much everything was a compromise. There were two floors and we were only allowed to use the top floor for gigs. The bottom floor played dance music, it attracted a very different clientele and you had to walk through the downstairs bar to go upstairs. Consequently, people were put off the place. It had a very much “us and them” atmosphere.
This was exacerbated by the fact that we started in August, which is a pretty bad time of year for a new city centre venue in Bradford. It was holiday/festival season and the punters weren’t about. To be fair, there weren’t a great many dance orientated punters either.
A credible successor to The Empress it was not.
Still, we tried but by the October, communication had broken down and we realised we were on a hiding to nowt. The owner wanted to convert the upstairs bar into a flat too. This co-incided with an opportunity to get something going up at Bradford University Colours Bar, so we decamped and relocated our efforts.
Over the years, the venue has seen many identities. In the late 90s it was called the Windows bar and after The Ivy, it was a strip bar called Blue Pelican then later The Zoo Lounge. I’m not even sure if it is still open as I rarely pass the area.
To be honest, it’s not a place I look back at as fondly as some of my friends do, even as The Wheatsheaf. Despite some reasonably good nights there, it never fully worked for me.