Glasgow's City Slickers.
In the NEWS 1978.
Exiles from Glasgow are usually amazed at the massive changes the city has undergone when they return after a long absence. But one of the biggest changes they see is the Glaswegian night life. Gone are the days when a few drinks in a dingy local, followed by a fish supper on the way home, was considered a night out.
Cheap package holidays to the fun loving Continent have shown Mr and Mrs Glasgow what letting their hair down is really all about. Now, thanks to the inventiveness, flair and sheer determination of a number of enterprising businessmen who have spotted a huge potential market for night-time entertainment in Glasgow, they have an exciting and ever-expanding choice of places to wine, dine, dance and have a good time.
This week it was anounced that the owner of one of the city's new look eating houses, the Ad-Lib in Hope Street, has sold out and will be ploughing cash back into a glittering new night-club complex.
Here we talk to just some of the men who have helped in recent years to buil Glasgow up into what many entrepreneurs believe will eventually become one of Europe's top cities for night life.
The Men Who Have Brightened Up Glasgow's Night Life........
"The Potential Was There..." When Eddie Topalian wanted to open a business in Britain, he toured the country and found that there was no middle-of-the-road place in Glasgow for the average man in the street to dine in.
There were, as he put it, plenty of "shabby" establishments and a few very expensive places, but nowhere in between. "I knew the city had potential," he said. "I was also told that the people didn't have the money to spend anyway, but I have since proved them wrong."
Eddie's success story began when he opened the Ad-Lib hamburger restaurant in Hope Street in 1974. A new concept in eating out, with its interesting American menu, Glaswegians quickly latched on to it.
This week Eddie sold the establishment for an undisclosed sum reported to be a Scottish record for a place of its size. He now plans to pour it all into the creation of a nightclub complex just off Buchanan Street. The precise details of the venture he is yet prepard to reveal, but he says, "When it does open, there will be nothing like it in Scotland, or maybe even in London."
Mr Eddie Toplian.
Armenian-born Eddie, an ex-medical student, added, "I have made a prophecy, and I'm still sticking to it, that when the licensing laws change completely in this country, Glasgow will be one of the major centres of entertainment in Europe. "And if no one else does it, then I'II make damn sure that I do."
THE MEN WHO STARTED IT ALL...
Few people have done more to influence the night-time leisure activities of Glaswegians and Scots in general than Reo Stakis.
Since opening his first Scottish restaurant in Glasgow 25 years ago, he has built up his empire to an impressive list of 40 restaurants, 23 hotels, and six casino, most of them in Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
Mr Reo Stakis, 1978.
Said a spokesman for the Stakis organisation, "He saw a great gap in the leisure activities available to the public in Glasgow, and has since revolutionised the eating-out habits of the Scot.
"A man taking his wife or girl-friend out for a meal knows what he is going to pay for it, and that he will get good value for money. "And when he opened his casinos he saw them not so much as hard gambling establishments, but as family places where people, instead of going home when everything closed at 10.30 p.m., could go for a meal, or a snack, and a flutter on the tables.
"He found that the Glaswegian most definitely does not mind paying for something as long as he knows he is getting value for money." Apart from the glitter of his three Glasgow casinoes, the Chavalier in Buchanan Street, the Regency in Waterloo Street, and the Princes in Sauchiehall Street, Stakis could perhaps be credited with bringing entertainment into pubs.
Now an accepted feature of many pubs throughout the country, Stakis introduced casual entertainment into his pubs about a decade ago.
PLENTY OF BIG SPENDERS...
Italian restaurateur Mario Romano has witnessed a remarkable change in his Glaswegian customers over the last decade. "Fifteen years ago they knew what a plate of spaghetti was, and that was about it, he says, hands waving in the air in typical Latin gesture.
"But now he knows exactly what he wants, and can choose a good wine to go with it." Mario should know, he owns the exclusive Ambassador restaurant in Blythswood Square, O' Sole Mio in Bath Street and the plush Campsie Glen hotel near Lennoxtown.
Mr Mario Romano.
"A lot of things can still be done to improve night life in Glasgow," said Mario, who comes from Naples, "But it will come gradually. You can't give too much all at once. "But it is getting better. When I came here in 1961, you could count the number of restaurants on one hand.
"And the Glaswegian is a big spender, as long as he doesn't make a fuss if he is not happy with a meal, he just asks quietly for it to be changed."
NOT EVERY NIGHT IS CHRISTMAS EVE...
Businessman Teri Alvis was ashamed of Glasgow when he attempted to entertain clients in the city. There was, he says, simply nothing to do.
After years of globetrotting, during which he visited some of the world's top nightspots he decided to try and brighten up evening leisure time for Glaswegians. "when you come out of your house in the morning in Glasgow," said Mr Alvis, "it is so grey.
Mr Teri Alvis, 1978.
"I decided I wanted to open a restaurant. But I didn't want it to be just a restaurant. I wanted it to be a place where every night is Christmas Eve." So he opened Blazes' in North Street. Now visitors to the restaurant can enjoy good food, giggle over the nicely naughty cocktail menu from His Bunny Bar where the drinks are served by gorgeous Bunny Girls, have their fortunes told by a real gipsy palmist take part in boisterous yard-of-ale drinking competitions, and listen to top cabaret.
THE DEAD CITY HAS COME ALIVE...
Mr Gino Romano, 1978.
Gino Romano, Mario's younger brother, had a nickname for Glasgow when he first arrived in the city from Naples... La Tomba Dei, which means "the tomb of the living people."
"I have seen a lot of places in the world, but Glasgow was unbelievable," he explained. "The city was dead but the people in it were alive.
"Thankfully, in the last few years this has changed a lot. The new licensing laws have helped and life has become much faster in the city."
Now Gino has taken over the Ad-Lib restaurant in Hope Street from Eddie Topalian, and will start managing it later this month. He also owns the Spaghetti House in Sauchiehall Street, which he started with his brother three years ago.
"The Glaswegian is very adventurous and very adaptable to new things," he went on. "If he goes to a pub, he will tend to get drunk but if he goes to a place where the atmosphere is different, he will fit in very well.
"I think that in about four or five years, Glasgow will become like a small London."