Earlier in this series I mentioned how the Cellar Door in Newport had turned an unloved retail unit into a micropub as an example of upcycling done right. Well a few yards away and over the river Usk, another example of giving something a new lease of life can be found in the form of The Pod.
Before the financial crash of 2007, Newport was receiving a relatively large amount of interest and investment. The cathedral town had recently become a fully fledged city. The Friars Walk shopping centre scheme was well into the planning and tendering phase, the Ryder Cup golf tournament was about to arrive at the Celtic Manor Resort down the road, and expansion of the University of Wales Campus Newport to include a new city centre location meant housing and digs were needed.
One of the companies designated to build on unused wasteland on the eastern bank of the river were Taylor Wimpey, who dubbed their development Renaissance Point, and set up a rather fetching spaceship shaped sales office adjacent to the old Art College on Clarence Place.
If the name Clarence Place is dimly familiar, it's because it's the location of the long-closed and now horrendously dilapidated TJ's, the famous rock music bar. John Peel dubbed it "legendary." Oasis launched their career here while recording at the nearby Rockfield Studios. Other performers included Green Day, Skunk Anansie, NOFX, Muse and Primal Scream. Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love there. Catatonia filmed the music video for "Mulder & Scully" there. It was featured in FHM's Top 50 Music Venues.
And then, suddenly, its enigmatic owner John Sicolo was gone, and his club died with him.
Meanwhile, round the corner, it took nearly 9 years before "Renaissance Point" was built, eventually rising up in the cursed year of 2016. All this time the sales office had sat unused and empty, its futuristic and optimistic design becoming almost mocking and laughable to an increasingly pessimistic city used to disappointment.
And then suddenly, the flats were up and the office was no longer needed. But what to do with it? Former rugby player Paul Young (no relation to either yours truly or the Sad Cafe singer) saw an opportunity not to waste the building and in 2017 The Pod was born.
Initially opened as a coffee house - cum - cocktail bar, the Pod has settled into its niche as a cocktail, food and events-led venue that also offers a few beers. When it first opened, a 4.6% eponymous IPA was offered, although the glassware seemed to indicate it was a rebadged brew from Caledonian.
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