74 Park Road, Glasgow. G4 9JF. Tel: 0141 334 1982.
A Doublet is a man’s short close-fitting padded jacket, commonly worn from the 14th to the 17th century.
The Doublet was opened in 1962, by partners Ossie Prosser and Mr Alexander Don. Mr Alistair Don son of Alexander now owners this very popular west end bar. Alistair is now a prominent figure in the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.
Alistair Don has been in the licensed trade for more than 40 years. He took over the Doublet from his father Alexander Don in 1974. Alexander who was for many years a representative of Dunn and Moore.
Alistair retired from the trade at the age of 69 and sold the pub in 2016.
This was one of the first bars in Glasgow to sell real ale.
In the News…December 2011…
The Doublet Bar in Glasgow celebrated its 50th anniversary at the end of November, and proprietor Alistair Don celebrated with a party. Susan Young reports.
The Doublet on Park Road was described in The List recently as “probably Glasgow’s finest pub,” and when licensee Alistair Don pointed out the quote to one of his regulars the response was you can take out the word ‘probably’. Says Alistair, “90% of my customers are regulars.”
That was probably why tickets to The Doublet’s 50th birthday party became the hottest ticket in town. Because quite simply it’s not that big a pub …and everybody wanted to go. So much so that Herald diarist Tom Shields was rumoured to have put his ticket on eBay which at the time of writing was sitting at a bid of £42!
I’ve known Alistair for 20 years… in fact since I’ve started writing about the trade. And for a decade I was a regular in The Lounge at The Doublet – because I lived just round the corner. Now as anyone who knows the Doublet will tell you – it has the public bar regulars and Lounge regulars and never the twain shall meet. Its The Doublet phenomena. But the Lounge wasn’t always there.
Alistair explains, “Before it was turned into a pub it was an upholsterers and there was a joiners yard at the back. My old man Alec and Ossie Prosser bought The Doublet from a Mr Cameron, and they initially wanted to buy the flat upstairs to expand it. Because in the 60s the pub was a real party venue. It was mobbed. Eventually they bought the joiner’s yard at the back in 1971 and that’s when The Lounge opened.” He continues, “By that time my old man and Ossie owned a few pubs – including the Picador in Renfield Street, The Doublet in Faifley and one in Drumchapel.
Prior to owning pubs Alec Don was MD of G&C Moore which eventually became Dunn and Moore, and his role there was sales director. But his move into the pub industry obviously had a huge impact on Alistair. He says, “I had been studying dentistry but failed the orals… and started working in the Picador. And when my old man died in 1974 I took over his partnership in the business, and in 1984, we split the partnership up and I took The Doublet with my sister, who I later bought out.”
That was 27 years ago. And today his father would probably not see any significant changes. Alistair explains, “My customers don’t want me to change it. Obviously it’s been redecorated, but everything goes back in roughly the same place. The Doublet is quirky and popular so why change something that is not broken. Nothing really changes here including the staff that are great. I don’t believe in sticking them in uniforms, they all know the ethos here which is ‘the customer is right on most occasions.’ I believe in giving my customers the products they want and providing them with excellent service.”
I asked him what was his most memorable occasion in the licensed trade? He said, “I really enjoyed being President of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) and getting involved with fighting the smoking ban. It was a real eye-opener. “
It was John Waterson that got Alistair involved in the SLTA. Says Alistair, “I was working in the Picador and John had The Burns Howff and he came along and invited me to a local association meeting. There were only two of us there… me and him, at which point he made me a director!”
Through the SLTA Alistair made some good friends including the likes of Roy Grier, Raymond McCrudden, the late John McCann, Donald Clark, Michael McHugh, Paul Waterson or ‘PDW’ as Alistair calls him, Billy Gallagher and many more. He recalls, “These were the days when the SLTA conference was rowdy. There was always lots of debate, folk were passionate about their businesses and willing to stand up and fight for it. And at the annual dinner there were 300/400 folk. It’s changed days now!”
There have been a lot of changes in the trade over time, but one thing which Alistair does miss is the different reps that used to visit. He tells me, “We hardly see any reps now and I miss that. On a Friday we used to have a whole posse of them. Every whisky company had a rep, and we saw them all the time. Now the only person who visits weekly is our Belhaven rep David Adam.”
On the subject of Belhaven Alistair is effusive. “I’ve been dealing with Belhaven for 20 years now. They give a fantastic service and have a very courteous way of operating. My staff know their tele-sales staff by name and they have a great range of products.”
Although Alistair admits he is now semi-retired, in that he no longer serves behind the bar, but he still comes in every morning, and is happy to continue running the Pub Quiz, which he has been quizmaster at for 15 years. In fact the quiz is just as famous as the pub! Says Alistair, “I really enjoy it, it’s great fun.”
He also has been running a charity Breast Cancer 2000, which he set up with his late wife Doreen. The charity is well on its way to raising £1m which is a tremendous achievement. And earlier this year Alistair started dating the lovely Lynda who he met in The Doublet and with four of his own grandchildren and six belonging to Lynda, the Don has a very active life outside the pub too. He has also become an expert on where to eat with kids… his favourite place being Paperino’s. But he also enjoys dining a la deux at the Crabshakk and at the Italian Café.
I asked Alistair what the secret was behind The Doublet’s success and longevity and he said, “My customers and my staff… this pub is all about the people.”
Personally I think The Doublet’s success is down to Alistair and his unfailing good humour. His staff say he is fair and honest. He’s certainly got a great attitude, which is no doubt why he went as Sgt. Pepper to the 50th party… in skinny jeans! A sense of humour… definitely!
Alistair Don has sold the Doublet to Paul & Claire Butler. The duo currently run the Saramago Cafe Bar at the Centre for Contemporary Arts.
We at Old Glasgow Pubs wish Alistair all the best in the future.
Do you have any memories of this great West End Pub? If so please leave a comment.