THE MICROBUS, GATESHEAD
Pubs with bus stops. Bus stops for pubs. Here comes the 97. Arm out, steady as you go. £2.70 single please, ding ding.
Pubs and buses were made for each other, like love and marriage (“go together like a horse and carriage…”), so much so that one of the attractions for the consortium that created The Microbus in Gateshead was the proximity of the nearest bus stop.
The stop for about a dozen Tyneside services is literally two steps from the three-month old pub door. The Microbus – on a parade of railway arches adjacent to the High Level Bridge – is dedicated to the VW Campervan and all its connotations, so I stepped inside with all my theme pub nightmares primed for shaking, shuddering reality. But not a bit of it shook me
The Microbus is a terrific addition to Gateshead’s pub culture
I recognised myself, my family and my friends in the groups and couples in the tiny premises. People make pubs and – Microbus – I feel at home with you.
VW insignias, Campervan grilles, license plates and hubcaps come second to six handpulls and ten taps – a range of cask and keg beers that an ale aficionado spends time dreaming of. Best of all is the pub’s ability to turn sourpuss me into roll-over-and-rub-my-belly submission.
Co-owner Gary Moore was previously involved in running The Schooner in Gateshead after taking early retirement following a 40-year career in the civil service.
“I felt it was time to go,” he says. “I never intended to get involved in a pub but I learned a lot at The Schooner, like the colossal outgoings that a big pub has – and I never realised what hard work it is.”
Part-owner Gary Moore at The Microbus bar
Although Gary and his wife have a VW Campervan, it was never the intention of swamping the new venture with what you might call Westfalia paraphernalia. However, the bar frontage has incorporated a van panel – lights and all – with two similar body-parts filling roles elsewhere. References to a more relaxed, holiday-type atmosphere are at every turn – model vans, surfing body boards, cool badges, fridge magnets, a ukulele and a shelf of VW magazines.
The pub’s brick-effect wallpaper looks so fake it’s more of a cartoon creation. But that’s the whole point; no part of the decor is trying to fool anybody, and anyway, orange-painted walls and a white curved ceiling shout colours that are sooo VW Campervan.
“People really like the B&Q orange,” says Gary. “The front panels were originally going to hang on the wall then someone said they’d look good as a bar front. We never even thought about how we would get them through the door.”
The bus stop ‘thing’, however, is about to take off with the promise of a replica on its way for display following a tongue-in-cheek request for timetables.
“We asked Go North East if we could have them for the wall and they suggested a replica bus stop instead. They’ve been really good, really helpful.”
The best advert, Gary reckons, is his dog Harriet sitting in the window after a long walk in the morning to get to work. He says: “She’s done more to attract custom than anything else.”
A replica of the bus stop outside is on its way to the pub
VW Campervan references everywhere
Over the years, The Micropub address has hosted hairdressing salons, newsagents and any amount of cafes – one of which has a unique place in North East hearts. Under the name of the High Level Cafe is the ‘sleazy snack bar’ that introduces the unforgettable Geordie anthem, Fog On The Tyne. The 1971 song, performed by Lindisfarne and written by the genius that was Alan Hull, starts:
Sittin’ in a sleazy snack bar
Sucking sickly sausage rolls.
Slippin’ down slowly,
Slippin’ down sideways,
Think I’ll sign off the dole.
The fog on the Tyne is all mine all mine,
The fog on the Tyne is all mine.
The pub’s most popular beer is Campervan Brewery’s Leith Juice IPA from Edinburgh, an American West Coast, tropical-flavoured IPA with more than a squeeze of orange zest to bring extra sunshine with it.
Unsurprisingly given the name, Gary Moore says they sell more of that than anything else. Add to the roster Roosters Fort Smith, Twice Brewed Neptune, Durham Bede’s Chalice, Northern Monk Double Heathen, Hops & Dots Kanye Best, Tennents Lager (rarely sighted south of the border) and Brass Castle Ginger Tom, plus house beer Octopus Juice from Yard of Ale (Ferryhill, County Durham) and you have a set of casks and kegs that can’t possibly fail.
And, with The Microbus’s attention to bus stops and timetables, there’s little chance of missing the last number 56 and having to walk home.
Ding “you can’t have one without the other” Ding.
Listen to Lindisfarne's reference to what is now the Microbus:
Arch 2 High Level Parade,
Lindisfarne’s ‘Sleazy Snack Bar’
Tables are dedicated to the house beer, Octopus Juice
Reading matter is VW, what else?
It’s eeny meeny miney moe time