Barney Miller is one of three founders of Salt Market Social – a two-year project to transform a former marine supply factory into a social hub on the Fish Quay at North Shields.
Along with business partners Jim Mawdsley and John Fairs, Barney hatched a plan to turn this stripped-back place into a permanent event space celebrating craft beer, street food and live music.
Two years later, Salt Market Social was born.
Here’s all you need to know about the new hub…
Salt market social is a totally new venture for me…
My day job is in the motor trade industry. I’ve been running Tynemouth Select Cars in North Shields for over 25 years, but around four years ago I spotted a disused building – a former marine supply factory on the Fish Quay.
A big blue warehouse that was just screaming for a new purpose – something cool, something different.
I had a word with my friend John Fairs and said: ‘Do you fancy going halves on this building on the Fish Quay?’. He simply responded with: ‘Barney, if you think it has potential then let’s just do it’. Easy as that. We go way back, we’ve been friends since we were teenagers, so the trust element was already there.
We’ve come a long way since purchasing in 2017…
I rented my showroom out and moved it to the Fish Quay, so downstairs we have my dealership along with three floors of offices which we let out to other businesses. But then we were left with this fantastic 8,000 sq ft space upstairs. That’s when another friend of ours, Jim Morsley, got involved.
We showed him around and very quickly hatched the plan to create a cool new event space. Jim’s background is in the music and hospitality industries, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to entertainment.
One thing led to another, and a temporary event space soon turned into a vibrant new venue on the fish quay…
Tons of planning applications and brainstorming sessions later, we were working towards an Easter launch date, but of course, the world had other plans.
On a positive note, the lockdown period gave us time to work on our concept and really add to our offering, and we were delighted to open our doors in August.
Since then, it’s just been fantastic to see local people flocking to eat and drink in a safe and sociable environment.
In terms of the design style, it’s all about creating a truly unique and inviting space, celebrating local artists…
One of our standout features is our sign writing by a local artist called Mark Shields.
He’s the brains behind our Salt Market Social wall graphics, but he also upcycled some furniture for us. The only brief I gave him was ‘make it funky – as if it’s been vandalised’, and he just got it.
He’s done a great job. It’s having little things like that, which are a little bit bespoke and have a bit of a story, which makes a place like ours so unique.
We’ve got some work from Bobzilla – he created one of the murals, which is a real talking point; and we also worked with a young upcoming artist who goes by the name of Sour Slice Art – the brains behind the whale illustration.
Salt market social is all about letting the good times roll…
The vibe is fun, laid-back and informal. The brief was to create an adaptable events space, without shying away from the warehouse feel.
It’s a place to go for pop-up street food, craft beer and live music.
We’ve got 12 craft beers on the keg, as well as hand pulls and a full range of spirits including local gins.
Our salt market socials are the main focus…
But we also want to be able to offer flexible event space for workshops, exhibitions, meetings and weddings. I’ve had people approaching me for all kinds of exciting events including pop-up film nights and fashion shoots.
We’re currently running the business alongside our day jobs, but hopefully we’ll continue to grow in the coming months. The original plan was to host one Salt Market Social per month, but we’re already expanding and growing, and as things continue to develop, we’ll be looking into hiring some permanent staff.
Our socials are about creating an atmosphere everyone can feel comfortable in…
Whether you’re bringing a baby in a pushchair, a grandparent, or you’re hanging out with a group of friends, we’ve tried to create a vibe that works for everybody.
It’s very much a family venue, with plenty on offer when it comes to food, drink and entertainment.
Of course, we’ve had to adapt the whole set-up because of the current COVID situation, reducing our capacity and putting safety measures in place, but there’s still plenty of room and the response has been great.
People feel safe here, and that is so important in the current climate.
It’s been so great to get to know some fantastic local traders…
We’re trying to rotate our traders as much as we can, so we can share all that the North East has to offer when it comes to street food.
We’ve had the likes of Lobo Rojo serving mexican food, Pan Asia serving Indian delights and Hatch 76 who serve the most amazing Artisan rolls and subs.
When it comes to craft beer, we’ve had a fine selection from some of our favourite local breweries including Allendale Brewery, Wylam Brewery and Northern Alchemy, to name but a few.
Our list is endless, and I’m sure there are plenty more exciting businesses that we will uncover along the way.
The same goes for our live entertainment line-up…
We’ll be rotating our DJs and live performers too. Salt Market Social has to appeal to a wide audience, so you might come and enjoy 70s and 80s vibes in one visit, and a bit of indie stuff the next time you come down.
It’s all about introducing an eclectic mix for our customers.
If it works, great – if not, we’ll try something new next time. The beauty of our business is that we can be totally flexible and adapt to whatever it is that people want to see.
In terms of the decor…
We’ve tried to retain the industrial feel. We’re on the banks of the Tyne on the Fish Quay – it’s a very unique area and there’s a lot of history and heritage for us to celebrate, so that’s what we’re all about – we wanted to ensure we still have that sense of place.
Sadly, the fishing industry has changed in recent years, but there’s a thriving new industry centred around cafes, bars and restaurants. We want to tap into that market, but offer something completely new at the same time. I think we’ve managed to do that.
I’m learning every day in this new venture…
But that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Pushing boundaries and enjoying it. What I’ve taken from my career in the motor trade is, it is all about people. It’s about making friends, creating a safe, sociable environment and having a bit of fun with it.
That’s exactly why we named it the ‘Social’. A cool, creative community where we can blur the lines between budding new local business and rich history and heritage.
It’s certainly something worth celebrating, and we’re doing just that.
The next Salt Market Social event will be on 26 – 29 November.