Multi-roomed pub that becomes a place to party after dark, featuring everything from comedy nights to local and big-name DJs
When climbing up the frustratingly steep St Michael’s Hill, you’re unlikely to miss The White Bear at the summit; a life-size replica of the creature that gives the pub its name dominates the front wall at first-floor level. It’s a useful metaphor, because The White Bear can be as lively as its towering mascot – an unsurprising fact given that it’s owned by legendary local-club-promoter-turned-venue-owner Julian Smith (a face on the Bristol scene for the past two decades).
During the day, the large, multi-roomed pub is fairly sedate, with students, locals and workers from the nearby hospitals supping a changing mix of guest ales, bottled beers and ciders, while tucking into decent grub from the regularly changing food menu. For those looking to arrange a dinner party with friends, the pub boasts a private dining room upstairs.
It’s at night, though, that the White Bear comes alive. Then, the pool table gets put away, the tequila flows and it becomes a party destination of choice. There are great local DJs, parties put on by club promoters, and occasional blowouts with esteemed decksmiths from around the UK and beyond (in 2013, New York house legend Kenny Dope even appeared – a remarkable booking given the venue’s capacity). On bank holiday weekends, you can expect all-day parties with barbecues in the courtyard.
Remarkably, The White Bear also has another unique calling card: the tiny Wardrobe Theatre, located on the first floor. Its Chuckle Busters comedy club is famed for hosting major comedians – unannounced, of course – as they get ready for tours or Edinburgh Festival appearances. Local hero Russell Howard and Mancunian funnyman Jon Richardson have both appeared in the Wardrobe in recent times.
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St. Michaels Hill