One of Dundee’s most iconic buildings is finally set to reopen as a bar and restaurant.
It has been over a year in the making, at a cost of £800,000, but the St Roques Library site, best known as the former Reading Rooms nightclub, will soon be welcoming revellers once more.
Ambitious plans to renovate the Blackscroft site were submitted to Dundee City Council last year by Blackscroft Property Company, led by businessman Derek Souter.
However, Covid-19 and planning issues delayed the launch, which Derek had hoped would happen last July.
Now, however, Derek is aiming for a May 17 opening, when pubs are able to start trading indoors again.
Initially he will open the beer garden only, as work to the inside of the B listed building is still to be done.
Derek said: “It has been a long time coming but renovation of the outside area is complete, we have been given planning permission and we are hoping to be ready to open the beer garden on May 17.”
The building most recently operated as the Reading Rooms nightclub.
It traded as the venue from 2008 until 2019, when it was forced to close due to police fears over drug taking.
Then operators of The Reading Rooms, Jim and Grant Grieve, denied all wrongdoing.
Now, Derek hopes the past can be left behind and the new bar, which he has yet to confirm the name of, will have a new lease of life in the £800,000 renovation.
Derek said: “It traded away well as the Reading Rooms until a few unfortunate events combined to see the long term tenants vacate, just as they were on the cusp of taking it to another level.”
Initially Derek had hoped to open in March last year but soon realised the building needed more work than originally thought, at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Derek said: “As the lockdown impacted it was realised the premises needed far more than the proverbial ‘lick of paint’.”
He added: “The late March lockdown and onwards has fundamentally changed the venue’s future and necessitated immediate action, plans and the requirement to accelerate the garden/terrace development, which was a big wish for the former tenants.”
When hospitality venues began to reopen last summer, it was hoped the St Roques beer garden could have launched.
Licences were in place for the venue but again, the scale of renovation work required meant the garden was not safe to welcome punters.
The new pub and beer garden will have capacity for up to 125 people.
While inside work is ongoing, the outdoor area will operate as a bar and grill.
Derek said that the investment also preserves the “wonderful but neglected for 40 years architectural gem”.
The plans include maintenance to the exterior of St Roques.
He added: “The only way forward was for the extensive gardens made full use of, the internals re-worked to allow significant external trading support and to transform this from a two nights a week venue to a six day a week trading business – and of course create jobs, deliver regeneration, and preserve a listed building.
“This will see this marvellous Grade B architectural venue re-imagined for a future, broader, more frequent, multi-event use.
“This investment will protect and create jobs, prevent business closure and promote economic recovery.”
Years of neglect
Historic Environment Scotland said last year that the St Roques Library has suffered from around 40 years of neglect.
“The recently closed Reading Rooms nightclub is within the former St Roques Library, designed about 1910 by Dundee’s City Architect, James Thomson,” they said.
“It is a handsome Edwardian Baroque building on a visible gusset site, with principal elevations to two sides, and a further façade of interest to Foundry Lane.
“There is a formal garden to the west with fine ironwork. It was B listed in 1965. The building is clearly in poor condition.
“The northern rooftop open balustrade appears to have been removed around five years ago.”