Became the Lamprey Café Bar, Therapy, Haus, Grill, Westgate Bar & Coffee House, The Westgate, Westgate Bar & Lounge, Lamprey, Liquor & Chow

This was originally the premises of the Gresham private hotel, which had to relocate from its original position on the opposite side of Westgate Street when Shire Hall was constructed. The ‘new’ Gresham was purchased in 1931 by the Cheltenham Original Brewery and it became a fully licensed hotel, trading under the new name of the Lamprey.

Courtesy David Hanks

A lamprey is an eel of the cyclostomata family that fastens its teeth into the flesh of other fish and feeds from their blood. The eel has been traditionally used as an ingredient in a succulent fish pie, which the citizens of Gloucester have presented to the reigning monarch on several occasions. Queen Elizabeth II received a Gloucester Lamprey Pie after her coronation in 1953 and on her silver jubilee in 1977. It is said that Henry I died of a ‘surfeit of lampreys’ in 1189, although as he died in Rouen in France no blame can be attached to any Gloucester pie makers.

The Lamprey Hotel was popular in the 1930’s with business folk and during the Gloucester Assizes it was packed with members of the legal profession.

Gloucester Journal, May 1941: A serious fire was averted by prompt action by two members of the AFS on Monday when a back draught from a heater set fire to some oil in the basement of the Lamprey Hotel, Gloucester. They saw smoke coming from the hotel and while one went to call the brigade the other went inside to deal with the fire. Soon the city fire brigade arrived and quickly got the outbreak under control. it was extinguished before much damage could be done.

One of the Lamprey’s most popular landlords was George Pugh; mine host of the pub from 1958 to 1974. George and his regulars organised an annual collection of toys for the children of Standish hospital near Stonehouse. When George passed away in 1974, aged 62, the funeral service in St Mary de Lode church was packed. Representatives of the police force, the fire service and many charitable organisations came to pay their respects and hundreds of wreaths and flower tributes were received by the family.

Gloucester Journal: Saturday, 5th February 1977 – Thank You Ada! Gloucester landlady Mrs Ada Pugh retired from the Lamprey Hotel, Westgate Street, after 18 years this week – but not before a special group of regulars wished her farewell. They were the deaf people who regularly called in at the pub after attending the Deaf Centre in nearby St. Marys Square. “Our members have been going to the Lamprey for years,” said Mrs Rosemary Ross, wife of Albert Ross, welfare officer for the Gloucestershire Diocesan Association for the deaf.” She and her staff always knew what our people wanted even when they could not make themselves understood.” As a tribute to Ada – whose late husband George, was ‘Father Christmas’ at Standish Hospital for 30 years – they presented her with a leather handbag. Mrs Pugh left the Lamprey this week for her new home at Over, after a total of 28 years in the licensed trade. New landlord is Mr Maurice Billington from Berrow, near Malvern.

1984. Image: The Citizen

Gloucester City Planning officials in February 1987 decided that a distinctive neon sign, with the illuminated name Lamprey, was ‘detrimental to the historic character of Westgate Street. The sign was bolted to the front of the Lamprey Hotel in 1931 and, apart from the replacement of tubes over the years, was in original condition and structurally sound. Dick Parsons helped erect the sign and was outraged at the decision to have the Lamprey sign removed. He said: “I was a 16-year-old apprentice standing on the bottom of the ladder when my brother Owen, fixed the sign. The boards are made of solid teak with a teak surround and originally the lettering was in gold leaf. That is why it looks nearly as good 56 years later as it did when it was put up. You don’t get quality like that these days.” In response, Mr. Nick Tyrrell., principal planning officer, said: “We are not trying to be high-handed, we are trying to upgrade the quality of the environment in Gloucester, which could be said to compare unfavourably with other places.”

In the early 1990’s the Lamprey had become a failed disco pub with the main bar only open twice a week. It had become a den of iniquity – a haven for unsavoury characters and there was allegedly a brothel upstairs.

In January 1997 the Lamprey was taken over by Kayta Newton, a Russian lady, who briefly transformed the pub into a Russian themed bar with 16 types of vodka, authentic Russian cuisine and Russian dolls and memorabilia. Surprisingly, it was closed by Whitbread just four weeks after Kayta took it over. Whitbread claimed that the building required extensive electrical re-wiring. The building was boarded up for some time afterwards.

Courtesy Darrel Kirby

Therapy Bar opened in the premises of the Lamprey in April 2002. The name change was criticised by local historian Phil Moss and Gloucester Tourism. Mr Moss commented: “It’s a great loss. I have never heard of another pub called the Lamprey. It is such a rare beast that I doubt whether there has been another Lamprey pub in Britain.” It was quoted in the ‘Citizen’ that Therapy ‘is going to have a totally brand-new look, with light blue colours and lilacs and purples and cartoons on the walls and photography behind the bar. There will be big screen televisions and tiled floors and contemporary wooden furnishings and finishing.’ A spokesman added “We want the right music and staff so everyone will feel welcome. The culture of Therapy is that it is a constantly changing environment and we wanted to incorporate artwork on the walls that would change over time so that people are always seeing something different.” Students from the University of Gloucestershire provided photographs and artwork of which were for sale. In November 2002 Therapy had temporarily closed, leaving Gloucester’s progressive drum & bass collective without a venue to perform. Although Therapy reopened the business model was not sustainable and by June of 2003 the premises had another change of identity to Haus.

It was reopened as the Lamprey Café Bar on 3rd June 1998. The frontage of the pub was replaced with new glass and the interior was completely replaced. The Lamprey Café Bar was declared the regional Marketing Pub of the Year in 1999 at the Whitbread Pub Partnerships inaugural Excellence awards. In August 2000 a new bar was opened at the back with two touch screen state of the art computers enabling customers to send e-mails. It was Gloucester’s first internet bar. The new bar was designed with women in mind – light and airy with textile walls made of plump purple cushions and pine floor and tables. An article in ‘Pub Life’ magazine in October 2000 noted that the unused area the back, which also included the kitchen and toilets, was converted to create additional space with a £17,000 state-of-the-art servery, complete with mirrors, aluminium fittings and frosted glass. Giant 3D artworks were obtained from the Warwick-based Elegant Clutter company, and these took the place of the previous windows in the room. The kitchen and toilets were repositioned upstairs. Manager Phil Thomas said: “We wanted something that when people saw it they would be gobsmacked. The effect customers now get when they walk through, is to go from traditional to modern to ultra-modern.” He added: “The back room serves as a chill-out area for customers on busy nights. The music is loud with lots of energy at the front of the building, but at the rear it is a different feel. The music is quieter, the lights are dimmer, and customers can relax. The venue, though, is a real chameleon. During the day it fills up from the front with shoppers and business people looking to get a spot on the sofa or the easy chairs so they can watch the world go by. At night it’s just the opposite and fills up from the back.”

In November 2001 the lease of the Lamprey was available for offers in the region of £99,500. It was described as superbly presented with over 2,000 sq. feet trading area plus large four bed flat in main shopping/leisure area. Good range of clientele with turnover £420,000 (ex VAT). It is believed that the owners were Enterprise Inns; the pub company are confirmed as owners in 2008.

Haus was the brainchild of the then 36-year-old former business studies student Matt McGuinness. He had already set up the first Haus in Derby, opening his second venture in Gloucester. The philosophy was to introduce a more continental style of eating and drinking. He said: “The idea is to provide customers with a cool, stylish, relaxing, friendly environment in which they can by food or drink, from a coffee to a beer, from a snack to a restaurant-quality meal, at the time they want it.” He added, “If you want a coffee you can get it at 10 in the morning and if you want one at 10 in the evening you can get one. If you want bar food or restaurant food, we do that as well.” A review of Haus reported that ‘the bar area is kept clear and a waiter soon arrives to show you a free table. The décor is simple but executed with great taste, with warm wood and cool white walls, inviting you to stay and make yourself comfortable.’ The reviewer added, ‘the candlelit restaurant was attractively laid out with ample room for large parties, but also in such a way as to give privacy to every table, with rustic screens and large, appropriately positioned plants.’

In July 2006 an ‘eating out’ review in the ‘Citizen’ was generally positive on the cuisine and service at Haus but commented on the long wait to get served and when their food did arrive it was found to be cold. The opinion was expressed that ‘the Haus does not hide from the fact it offers something different – and it’s a good deal pricier than its neighbouring eateries.’ In April 2007 the city bar and restaurant had closed. The next incarnation of the premises – the Grill Bar & Coffee House – opened later that year.

The Grill, as the name implies, was more of a restaurant than a pub. It was the sister restaurant to Bearlands in Longsmith Street and ran on the same principles. The Grill should have opened for business on July 23rd  2007 but this coincided with the severe flooding of that month which fouled the mains water supply making tap water unsafe to drink. The Grill opened when drinking water was safely available on 7th August 2007. Diners were encouraged to lounge in the comfy sofas in the chic bar to be served with a drink whilst their food was being prepared. A review in the ‘Citizen’ noted that ‘the small restaurant itself is cool and contemporary, all clean lines and accent colours, and the menu is similarly simple but caters for all tastes. There may not be much to challenge to adventurous, but the emphasis here is on classic dishes, perfectly presented and beautifully cooked.’

The next incarnation to the premises was unveiled as the Westgate Bar & Coffee House. This was another short-lived venture, closing its doors in July 2008 claiming that the failure had been due to the financial crash and credit crunch which saw beer sales in pubs plummeting by 10.6% in one year. In October 2009 another refurbishment saw the opening of the Westgate, putting the emphasis back on being a pub rather than an eatery. In contrast to the fine cuisine served in Haus a few years previously, wholesome food cooked freshly in the Westgate cost around the £5 mark. General manager of the Westgate, James Wilkinson, said: “We are hoping to attract the over 25’s and avoid the younger market. We won’t be putting on any silly drink promotions and we want the Westgate to be somewhere where people can come and enjoy a drink in a comfortable setting.”

A year later the direction of the Westgate had changed again when new tenants, partners John Huggins and Sam Riley, relaunched the pub as a welcoming venue for Gloucester’s gay and lesbian community. John Huggins told the ‘Citizen’, “We wanted to open something in Gloucester as there’s nothing for the gay scene in the city at night apart from the occasional one night a week event. We’re doing it for the community, to try and build up a nice venue here for them.” The new look Westgate opened on 4th October 2010. It was great relief when the new venture proved to be a success with the first anniversary being well-supported. John said: “It’s had the best success the pub building has had in at least a decade, maybe more like 20 years.” Twelve months further on Chris Marsh, the manager of the Westgate said: “Gloucester used to be an intimidating place for gay people to go out at night, but not anymore.”

A serious fire broke out on the roof the Westgate pub on the afternoon of Tuesday 22nd January 2013, which was started whilst builders were working on the roof with bitumen. Around 20 per cent of the roof was damaged and firefighters used an aerial appliance to extinguish the flames, the drama being witnessed by hundreds of onlookers. Fire commander Jon French said: “The fire was well alight when we arrived.” The fire destroyed bathrooms, the kitchen, and the dance floor. Pub manager Chris Marsh said: “It could have been a real disaster but thanks to the fire service, everything was brought under control in two hours.” Because the toilets were damaged the Westgate remained closed until April when a massive party was held to celebrate the refurbishment and for their third year at the pub. Drag Queens Ruby Slippers, Baroness Peaches Tart and Miss Felica were present in all their glory.

Following the fire, the Westgate pub faced mounting financial pressure and hoped to raise £25,000 through crowd funding to survive. John Huggins told the ‘Citizen’: “The pub might close in the next couple of months if the money is not found. We’ve gone through a massive recession, fewer people go out drinking and bills are going up, so we’re finding it a struggle.” Sid Kostromin  (Monica Tension) said: “It’s important that we stay open because of what we do in the [LGBT] community. We’re a meeting place where people feel comfortable and can be themselves.”

Owners Enterprise Inns closed the Westgate in March 2015, but reassured the LGBT community that following refurbishment it would reopen as a gay friendly pub. It opened again in May 2015, renamed the Westgate Bar & Lounge. On the opening night a Britney Spears tribute act entertained the crowds. The new-look venue had new comfy chairs and was tastefully redecorated. However, trade failed to pick up after the makeover with Robin Agaskar, secretary of LGBT support group GAY-GLOS saying: “It was done up really nicely when it reopened. But if a venue had been closed before, people can get out of the habit of going there and find somewhere else. Sometimes the pub was busy, sometimes it wasn’t.” The Westgate Lounge & Bar closed in August 2015.

After thirteen years trading under various names and incarnations it was announced in September 2015 that the pub was going back to its original name – the Lamprey. The new managers seemed to be a little uncertain in the direction the Lamprey would take. Matt Lannon told the ‘Citizen’: “We are working out what direction to go in, but I think it will be more of a ‘back-street-boozer-meets-gastropub’ rather than a late-night venue. TV’s were installed to show sports and live music was to be featured. Once again the venture was short-lived, the venture failing to compete with more established traditional pubs in Westgate Street such as the Fountain Inn and Sword.

Liquor & Chow opened on Thursday 21st December 2017 after a two-week transformation undertaken by landlord Matthew Bull. The property had been bought, presumably from EI Group (Enterprise Inns), by Gloucester property investor Charles Perkins. The venture followed Matthew’s other business concerns in Cheltenham, where he also ran Thirteen Degrees and Six Degrees of Separation. Indeed, there were plans to open a second Gloucester bar in Eastgate Street in 2018 but this never came to fruition. He told the ‘Citizen’, “We are aiming to open from 8am until midnight and a bit later at weekends. The city bar will serve breakfasts and brunch during the day, with the space turning into a more adult setting in the evenings.” Once again, the venture was short-lived and Liquor & Chow closed suddenly, without warning, in September 2019.

Just one week after the apparent sudden of the closure of Liquor & Chow it was announced the premises was to become a centre, run by Treasure Seekers, for young people in the city. The renamed Cavern was to provide drinks and snacks for the young and offer mental health support. The Cavern also featured a gaming room and a venue for live music. Treasure Seekers had already taken the lease on the top two floors of the building. The Cavern opened on September 28th 2019, bringing to an end a comparatively short spell of 88 years as a licensed premises.

Landlords include:

1936 A.P. Frith (Lamprey Hotel)

1958-1974 George Pugh (Lamprey Hotel) George died in August 1974.

1974-1977 Ada Pugh

1977-1984 Morris Billington (Lamprey Hotel) Retired in 1984 due to illness. He died in April 1985, aged 56. Started at the Crown in Clarence Street in about 1960, then Twelve Bells at Witcombe, then Duke of York in Berrow before moving back to Gloucester.

1984,1988 John Hayward (The Lamprey)

1997 Tony and Kayta Newton (The Lamprey)

1998,2000 Chris Maries and Phil Thomas (Lamprey Café Bar)

2002 Michelle Rayner (Bar Manager, Therapy)

2003 Matt McGuinness (Haus)

2007 James Cullis (Manager, The Grill)

2009 James Wilkinson (General Manager, The Westgate)

2010 John Huggins and Sam Riley (The Westgate)

2012 Chris Marsh (Manager, The Westgate)

2014 Sid Kostromin (General manager – AKA drag queen Monica Tension)

2015 Jack Harrison (Westgate Bar & Lounge)

2015 Jurek and Matt Lannon (Lamprey)

2017 Matthew Bull (Liquor & Chow)

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