While you were musing over the launch of The Alchemist and it’s weird and wonderful cocktail menu, another brand new, must see bar popped up in Newcastle right under your nose. Billy Bootleggers is one of those bars that needs no fanfare, stripped right back to the basics, this modern twist on the prohibition era speakeasy says a big “fuck you” to commercialism. Relying on word of mouth rather than huge promotional campaigns, Bootleggers is a place you discover rather than seek out…..
If you live in the North East you’ll know that the Newcastle cityscape is in a phase of exponential growth. With money being ploughed into the city to bring big chains to the new Grey’s Quarter and the impending revamp of Grey Street with it’s planned influx of new nightclubs and bars, the city of Newcastle is a very different place these days.
Billy Bootleggers however, seeks to provide asylum to those who want to escape the chains and consumerism, and just drink and be entertained. In a bold move, it’s an independent bar which, shock, horror, hasn’t been designed with the sole purpose of being instagrammable. The bar is deep in the basement below its cult sister bar, No. 28, and the graffiti lined staircase gives an indication of what to expect once you’re below deck.
The 60 capacity bar is a typical American style dive bar, it takes me back to my days in Miami when we’d look to escape the tourist traps that line South Beach and head out of Dadeland to take in some real Americana at Mac’s Club Deuce. That’s exactly what you’ll find here, real Americana, a tribute to the States, from the baseball bats and star spangled banner that face you as you enter, to the delapidated Bill & Ted era phonebox and the restroom doors designated by gaffer taped letters, it’s a place that definitely makes me feel at home and makes me pine for my former home.
In the far corner of Billy Bootleggers is a stage area where local acts will perform, with seating geared up to face the entertainment perfectly, it’s cosy in there so be prepared to get intimate with your neighbouring table! I went along for the VIP opening where the King Bees played a swing set and we dined on Snappy’s frankfurter hotdogs, buffalo wings and cheesy fries – nothing pretentious, nothing unnecessary, just good quality, fast food and strong liquor.
Where Billy Bootleggers really shines is behind the bar. Director Elliot Towsey makes up a fresh batch of authentic Apple Pie Moonshine every morning ready to be put into jars and served to the baying public. Trust me, it tastes almost exactly like it does in Tennessee where it originated, and you’ll find nothing else like it in Newcastle. There’s also a huge selection of bourbon for those seeking the authentic dive bar experience – high five to that – and a cocktail menu if you’re that way inclined.
One of my favourite things about Billy Bootleggers is that there’s no dress code, you wanna wear sneaks? No problem. Mirroring the stance of the dive bars of America, this isn’t a place you need to dress up for, it’s almost the anti-modernist establishment, for those who want to turn their back on the bigger, more established bars in town. It’s one for the rebels, and I like that.
Once you realise that Billy Bootleggers just doesn’t give a fuck what you think of its appearance and cares most about the experience you have once you get to the bottom of the staircase, you’ll focus less on updating Instagram and actually relax and enjoy what Bootleggers has to offer – good food, great entertainment and the best drinks menu in Newcastle. You might even find that it becomes the best bar you never knew you needed in your life…..
See you by the stage, that’s my new designated hotdesk…..
Billy Bootleggers is open 7 days a week 5pm – 2am with regular live music announced in advance via their FaceBook page.