The Gallery cocktail bar in Ipswich

From art gallery to cocktail bar

A former art gallery has been transformed into a contemporary bar; all while retaining its historic features.

The Gallery is a hidden gem in Wherry Lane, Ipswich and, although it is a new bar, the building it resides in is anything but new. It is set within a Grade II listed building, but also forms part of a Grade I and Grade II* listed complex being part of the Isaac Lord Merchant Quarter which has a long industrial past.

Three years ago, bar manager Jack Coughlan, started work with NJ Architects on plans to turn the space into a bar. He said: “We worked closely with Shaun at NJ Architects to bring our vision to life.

“The building’s listed status meant we had to be incredibly careful with what we could and couldn’t do on both the interior and exterior.

“The building has lots of levels and heavy hardwood beams due to its previous use for storage of grain and malt.”

The first stage of the project was planning the bar as it is the focal part of the layout. Everything else was factored in afterwards around the magnificent, exposed timber beams.

The Gallery cocktail bar in Ipswich

Jack added: “The next stage was to rearrange the bathroom facilities which took some time. The beams caused some issues, so we had to work with NJ Architects to locate the service connections discretely.”

The work inside included new flooring and timber work to match the existing beams, the creation of a lobby and bathroom facilities.

The Gallery was originally scheduled to open in March 2020 however the global pandemic put a halt to that.

“Supply chain issues as a result of coronavirus caused problems,” Jack said. “However, we continued to work with NJ Architects throughout the lockdown to finish off the building regulations and access strategies ensuring that time was not wasted.

“Given that there was a massive decrease in the national hospitality trade because of the incoming COVID-19 threat, this allowed us to work collaboratively and focus on the real needs of the business and venue properly.”

The Gallery finally opened to customers in June 2021 and Jack praised NJ Architects for their impeccable work. Since opening, the venue continues to get high praise for the service it brings but also the innovative use of space.

The Gallery cocktail bar in Ipswich

Jack said: “We knew exactly what we were going to get from NJ Architects and the work was seamless.

“It was great that we could just hop across to their office to view the plans as NJ Architects are literally next door to The Gallery.”