The city’s sweatshop has an artistic flair


Artistic speakeasy drink in a wine glass.
The Absent Ear focuses on “premium drinks made in a fun and dynamic way”.

The team behind Glasgow bars St Luke’s and The Amsterdam hailed their latest venture – underground cocktail bar The Absent Ear – a ‘smash hit’, despite opening during coronavirus restrictions.

The new 34-seat site in the Merchant City is the brainchild of owner Michael Woods and COO Alex Riches and headed by CEO Ruaraidh Paul. Customers reserve a table and receive directions to the venue via email, only getting entry after pressing a buzzer placed in a portrait of Vincent van Gogh, from whom the bar takes its name.

Riches described the place as a ‘real sweatshop on the doorstep’.

“You go down the stairs, walk past a bunch of Van Gogh paintings, all the way down, where you are confronted with a Van Gogh self portrait,” he said.

“To get into the bar itself, you have to press a buzzer that’s in his ear, which flashes a light inside the bar.

“So you have the full theater to be able to enter the bar. You have to be invited. You must have a reservation for this.

Any underground bar will go up or down with its cocktails, and so Woods and Riches have set up, in Riches’ words, “a team of absolute superstars” behind the bar.

Hires include bartenders Jamie Moran and Dave Ali – the team behind Glasgow’s underground Wheesht bar, which closed last year.

“I think it’s just trying to put a stamp here as having the best cocktail menu in town and aiming to bring this kind of underground bar theater at the same time,” Riches said.

“Premium drinks prepared in a fun and dynamic way with theatrical services.
“It’s really kind of an immersive experience. There are no windows or anything downstairs. You get lost there.

And while initially cannot function as a night bar (the venue will operate from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. once normal trading hours resume), customer response has been positive, Riches said.

“Being that it’s only 30 covers, it’s been a smash hit so far,” he said.

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About Bernice D. Brewer

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