Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Exclusive: Inside Budz Bar building as owners lift lid on plans to create four-storey ‘biggest venue in Aberdeen’

Plans for the £2 million venue include crazy golf, a nightclub, and cocktail bar.

Bruce Porter and Allan Smith showed us around the huge Union Street complex they want to transform into the city's biggest venue.
Bruce Porter and Allan Smith showed us around the huge Union Street complex they want to transform into the city's biggest venue. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

“It’s like stepping into a time warp,” Allan Smith grins as he creaks open a door.

The Aberdeen businessman is taking us inside Budz Bar, a portal into the past adorned with posters for 69p shots and littered with debris from a different time altogether.

This hazily remembered venue closed to punters in 2007 amid a storm over minimum alcohol pricing laws, and it hadn’t seen the light of day again until 2023.

That was when Allan and business partner Bruce Porter bought the derelict bar – and the entire building above it.

By the time they got inside, its once sticky dancefloor was knee-deep in water after lead from the roof was stolen.

Bruce Porter and Allan Smith welcomed us inside Budz Bar, and the rest of the complex, on a snowy winter day. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
Posters like this one are still on display in there. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Major plans would cost £2 million

But that, nor the fact the building appeared about to “collapse” within months, was enough to scare them off.

The pair have a big dream of turning its four storeys into “the city’s biggest venue”.

Their ambitious £2m Glitch complex would have two floors of ultra-modern crazy golf courses, a trendy nightclub where Budz once was, a lavish cocktail bar and even a “floor is lava” game room.

Our photographer brought along his drone to show off the size of the huge city centre building. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Now, for the first time, they have shared the full story behind the project that has been the talk of the town for months.

Welcoming the P&J into the deceptively huge 200-year-old site, they showed us around and painted a vivid picture of what could be to come… 

  • Allan recalls how his hunt for a venue led to a Union Street building empty for nearly 20 years, and which was “about to fall down”
  • New images show how the “hi-tech” crazy golf will feature, among other eye-catching attractions, a replica 1970s-style New York subway train
  • Meanwhile, an “immensely Instagrammable” cocktail bar could even have individual Prosecco taps on each table
  • And Allan tells us why he thinks the landmark project can help turn around the struggling city centre at a pivotal point

Inside look: New owners of Budz Bar speak about plans for the first time

Trudging through snow along Union Street as we head to meet Allan and Bruce, we pass a sobering string of closed buildings.

Our destination is just across from a longstanding WH Smith now emblazoned with bright yellow “closing down” signs, a sadly common sight on the Granite Mile.

The front of the building as it looks today, covered up with a Dracula poster as it prepares to rise from the dead… Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

When we meet the local entrepreneur, he wastes little time in acknowledging the scale of the challenge before him.

But while Allan is frank about the city centre’s fortunes, he believes it can be saved.

It just needs some creative thinking, and maybe a new attraction to lure people here.

And he’s convinced that, if he builds it, they will come.

The stairway down to Budz might bring back memories among some readers. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

So how did this all come about in the first place?

Allan’s work kitting out sushi joints takes him all over the UK, and it was on a trip to Liverpool that an interesting idea began to take shape…

The Aberdeen upholsterer and his team tend to carry out their refurbishments at night, so that venues can keep trading during the day, and are always on the lookout for activities to fill time between shifts.

Allan Smith hard at work.

It was as he putted a ball at a modern crazy golf venue in the English city that he began wondering why Aberdeen didn’t have anything like this.

‘There’s a gap in the market here’

The 38-year-old explains: “We travel and do a lot of work in England, and had seen crazy golf is a bit of a thing…

“There’s Junkyard Golf in various places, and another called Puttshack which is popular.

“And along with that, how many people travel from Aberdeen to places like Glasgow or Edinburgh for a good night out?

“I just began thinking there was a bit of a gap in the market here.

“We want it to be crazy golf… But not crazy golf as you know it.”

It might be a bit more like this:

How did crazy golf idea lead to Union Street’s oldest empty unit?

With his idea in mind, Allan set about finding a venue.

He looked at the long-empty Tiger Tiger nightclub on Shiprow – but it wasn’t big enough.

Tiger Tiger closed 10 years ago. Image: Donna Murray

And while driving past the old Budz Bar in his work van one day, a thought crossed Allan’s mind.

“I’d never seen ‘to let’ signs on it in all the time it’s been lying there,” he explains.

“So I went back to my office to find out who owned it.”

The venue on Aberdeen’s Granite Mile. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Fateful encounter with generous tycoon…

The trail eventually led to Alan Wallace, a legendary Aberdeen businessman whose vast portfolio included several hotels in his heyday.

He bought the Union Street building about a quarter of a century ago, but it had fallen off his radar for several years.

Entrepreneurial duo Ivor Finnie and Alan Wallace, back when they were directors of Verase and sold Union Street’s Cocky Hunters, which is now McGinty’s. Image: DC Thomson
A cutting from the Evening Express in November 2000, when Mr Wallace opened Budz Bar. Image: DC Thomson

The 73-year-old was about to retire when Allan got in touch last year.

Answering the phone at his Crown Street office, the property magnate revealed that, as it happened, it was the final building he was looking to offload before calling it a day.

The flabbergasted Luxous boss took this as “an omen” and quickly arranged a meeting.

Some more dusty remnants of the building’s past. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

After a few chats, he said that the veteran businessman began to see something of his younger self in Allan.

And soon enough, the “deal of a lifetime” was struck.

The price agreed seemed “too good to be true” but it was legit, and the building was swiftly signed over.

Allan’s lawyer couldn’t believe what he was hearing when the businessman relayed the terms of the agreement. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
Would you have to be off your hinges to take on a project like this? Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

What was the Budz Bar building like at first?

Allan and Bruce soon realised the scale of the challenge before them when they got the keys to the crumbling site.

Bruce sighs: “The amount of structural repairs we have had to do on this…

“It was still exactly the same as the day Budz Bar closed, albeit with a few inches of water on the floor.

“There were still posters up advertising 69p vodka.”

These prices applied all night, every night. And Allan felt as though he had stepped back in time when he entered the largely intact abandoned venue. Image: Allan Smith
On Wednesday student nights you could pick up a pint for £1.45. Image: Allan Smith
Workers make their way around the decaying building as they plot the project. Image: Allan Smith
Does this bring back any memories? Another echo of the past found inside Budz Bar. Image: Allan Smith

Since last summer, remedial work has been taking place.

And Allan reckons that, if not for these efforts, the 17,000sq ft building might not still be standing.

He explains: “The roof was collapsing, we saved the building.

“It dates back to the 1820s so we were looking at 200 years of decay… And I don’t think it would have lasted another year.”

Why are business partners uniquely suited to bringing Glitch to life?

Allan’s Luxous company is behind a range of Granite City restaurant overhauls, and created the ABERDEEN letters currently catching the eye in Union Terrace Gardens.

He’s fitted out the popular Tarragon on Rosemount, Siberia on Belmont Street and various PB Devco city centre hotspots.

The trendy Tarragon layout was crafted by Luxous. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

That’s in addition to regular work with Yo Sushi! across the UK and Ireland.

This, he explains, puts him in a unique position to make a success of the city centre building.

Old posters remain intact where the bar used to be. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

For one thing, he and fabricator Bruce own “every machine” required for the work, meaning they will just be paying for staff and material – with zero outsourcing required.

But it’s more than just that.

The former Budz Bar could be brought back to life as a new Aberdeen destination.
Here is how the frontage would be brought back to life if the plans are approved. Image: Tinto Architecture

As a contractor on various other schemes, Allan is used to coming up with some fairly imaginative ideas.

But these bolder design choices are often the first thing to go when developers begin to count costs.

As he puts it: “They start removing all the really cool stuff.”

That won’t be the case here, with the pair of dreamers only answering to themselves…

So what’s in store for the Budz Bar building?

Allan explains: “If you don’t drink and want to go out on Union Street there’s not really much there for you, and nor are there many places for families to have a day out at.

“We want a venue where you can take the family during the day, and by night it becomes a place for adults, with a cocktail bar and a nightclub.”

With that in mind, here’s how the premises could be reborn.

The lower ground floor, where Budz Bar was, would become a nightclub.

The eye-catching exterior of Budz Bar on Union Street seen here many years ago. Image: DC Thomson
Here’s what Budz Bar looked like when they got inside. Image: Allan Smith

Navigating our way past dismantled seating, Allan tells us the venue “literally looked like it had just closed its doors” when he first clapped eyes on it.

In his future vision, down below the entrance off Union Street, there would be some private booths available to book, and a DJ booth beyond them.

There would also be booth seating for other punters, and a possible dining area (potentially specialising in street food) down at the bottom.

Here is how the basement level bar could be transformed. Image: Tinto Architecture

The nightclub would be aimed at the more relaxed 25-and-over demographic, with the potential for DJ nights and bands.

The bar has already been ripped out, and it would offer table service, with owners keen to keep it distinct from the other nightspots nearby.

Here’s how the staircase leading down to the venue could look under the plans. Image: Tinto Architecture

Former clothes shop has lain empty for decades

The ground floor off Union Street was previously home to a furniture shop and latterly the Justrite clothes store.

It has lain vacant even longer than the bar below it.

Much like when they got inside Budz Bar, Bruce tells us that the old Justrite looked like “it had just shut its doors and been left to rot for 20 years” when they looked around.

Ever wondered what the place looks like now? Here it is. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
These ornate staircases will have to be removed to make way for lifts. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

This level, accessed off Union Street, would be converted into two crazy golf courses.

So what will they entail?

‘People will walk in and say ‘oh my god”

Allan’s eyes come alive as he gazes out into the cavernous space and describes his vision to bring it alive.

Running the length of the floor, he wants a 100m long exact replica of a 1970s New York subway train.

A design image of how the subway train replica could look. Image: Tinto Architecture

He grins: “People will literally walk in and say ‘oh my god’.

“We are building a replica train, and I want it to be exact.”

Alongside that course, which is inspired by cult film The Warriors, there would be three other options with each boasting nine holes.

There would be places to put down your cocktail while putting away. Image: Tinto Architecture

Allan envisages one of these to be inspired by a 1950s circus, and another by Tokyo in decades gone by.

So is this what he meant by “crazy golf… but not as we know it”?

That’s not the half of it.

Glitch would be “massively influenced by technology”, with bluetooth chips implanted in the golf balls to track progress.

This could mean that players take a break for a pint mid-game, and then pick back up right where they left off.

Even the seating would be inspired by graffiti on the New York underground. Image: Tinto Architecture

Challenges could include circus-inspired feats, and cheating would become impossible.

What about the next level up?

Next, Allan guides us up a centuries-old staircase to the first floor.

The bulk of the space here would be taken up by two more crazy golf courses.

This is what the first floor looks like now. Its history goes back to time as housing many moons ago. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
Posters like this one are still kicking about from the old clothes shop in the building. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

What will the cocktail bar be like?

But beyond them would be, he hopes, a top destination for a girly night out – serving drinks with “a ridiculous amount of theatricality”.

This room on an upper level may not be much to look at just now… Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
But this is what it will look like under the revamp plans. A specially designed window will allow would-be cover girls to pose as if on the front of Vogue. Image: Tinto architecture

A mixologist will be hired to concoct a range of “Instagrammable” options for the attraction.

And even the cheapest items would have some “theatrical element”.

As well as tipples that customers just won’t be able to resist sharing on social media, Allan is thinking of installing Prosecco taps on each table for easy access to glasses of fizz.

“I want people to feel like they are being treated like royalty when they visit,” he adds.

Here’s a closer look at that “magazine cover” window. Image: Tinto Architecture

Slide could add to the fun at reborn venue

Over in the corner, there would be a tunnel branded with the slogan “curiosity often leads to trouble”.

This would lead to another, “secret”, bar towards the rear of the ground floor which customers can reach in a rather unique fashion…

They’d be able to pop down a chute, sliding from the cocktail bar to the “hidden” destination.

The former Budz Bar could become a modern entertainment mecca - featuring crazy golf and various other attractions.
You could slide on down to this bar on the floor below, where you could pick up another drink. Image: Tinto Architecture

Meanwhile, up on the second floor, facing Justice Mill Lane, would be a Project Pizza diner.

Even that is a tactical choice, as crazy golf players could easily mosey through the courses with a slice in their hand.

Project Pizza got its start in a food truck at the beach, and could find a city centre base in Glitch. Image: Tinto Architecture
The pizza joint could look like this. Image: Tinto Architecture

And another larger restaurant would offer space for dozens of diners, with the kitchen created at the very top of the building.

A “floor is lava” games room would be created in a wide room at the back of an upper level.

“We just thought it could be something fun, where people could jump about like kids,” Allan says.

And even one of the upper-level flats has been factored in, as potential accommodation to help entice a general manager to run Glitch.

Are you excited at the prospect of visiting the venue? Let us know in our comments section below

‘I want to create something phenomenal’

Allan has little time for the “Abermoaners” prognosticating doom for the troubled city centre, though he admits he used to be one.

As our tour draws to a close, he tells us of his belief that the entire saga thus far has “happened for a reason”…

The venue, which prided itself on its supply of Budweiser, seen here in 2001. Image: DC Thomson

He confides: “I used to be one of the folk moaning about things on the Evening Express Facebook page.

“And yes the market is poor right now, but it needs an effort to recover and it feels like people aren’t prepared to invest in venues…”

Here’s how one of the private booths in the nightclub would look. Image: Tinto architecture

Inside look at Budz Bar comes at turning point for city centre

He continues: “Online retail has changed what the high street is about, it’s no longer about shopping.

“And in Aberdeen specifically, Union Square has taken away a lot of trade from Union Street.

“But we just need to give people a reason to visit Union Street, and we want to make a statement with this building.

“It will be the biggest venue in Aberdeen by a mile!”

The former nightspot is just one part of the plans. On the floor is a pile of old CCTV videos found inside Budz Bar. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Bruce, who runs Bru Fabrication, is an Aberdeen native and can (just about) remember being inside Budz Bar in its 2000s heyday.

He adds: “Getting inside has been really eye-opening, there are windows and fireplaces upstairs that show how the place has changed over the years.

“We found everything from 100-year-old beer bottles to a guide on working during World War Two when we’ve been fixing it up.”

Our trip inside Budz Bar came as preliminary work is nearing the end. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

‘Things happen for a reason’

As we head back out into the cold, we look up at the Justice Mill Lane brickwork that could soon be clad in a dazzling lights display.

The building is a bit of an eyesore at the moment. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson
How Aberdeen’s Budz Bar will look if revamp plans go ahead. Image: Tinto architecture

And Allan adds: “Where Luxous excels is getting a project and running with it.

“Things just happen for a reason in life, and we want this to be phenomenal.

“We can help turn Aberdeen into a city of colour.”

However, despite some preliminary work making the building safe, efforts will only be able to properly begin if Aberdeen City Council grants planning permission.

You can view and comment on the plans here.

Read more:

Revamp branded ‘like Las Vegas strip at night’ as historians call for rethink

Proposal sends readers on noughties nostalgia trip to days of 50p shots and ‘jugs of voddy Red Bull’

Budz Bar in Aberdeen: A look back at 6 years of banging beats and strange shots