New bar tempers need for alcohol

If you’re bored of tea and fed up of paying through the nose for coffee, then Tony Chapman could have just the tonic for you.

He and wife Kara have started a temperance bar in Rotherham - the first one to open in the town for 100 years.

Drinks are sold in pints and halves, much like in a regular bar.

But instead of alcohol, customers choose from a tempting menu of cordials, served hot or cold, still or fizzy.

These include sarsaparilla, blood tonic (made from rosehips and nettles), dandelion and burdock, blackcurrant and liquorice, and good old Vimto.

Tony, 42, of Swinton, said: “Vimto was originally called Vim Tonic and was the first drink to be sold in temperance bars.”

“Sarsaparilla came over from America and dandelion and burdock has been made in the UK since the middle ages.”

“These were brewed by herbalists who made promises of many medical uses including the treatment of gout and urinary problems, to name but a few.”

Tony and Kara opened the bar in their Whistle Stop Sweet Shop, at Imperial Buildings in the town centre.

The building dates back to 1908 and walking inside is like stepping back in time.

Jars of multicoloured sweets are ranged on floor-to-ceiling shelves.

A scale sits on the counter for weighing them, while display shelves are loaded with an array of sweet cakes.

Customers David and Gillian Reeder, of Broom Valley, said they were regulars.

David, who will be 65 next month, said: “When I was 15 I went to night school and at break time we used to go to a herbalist and have a pint of sarsaparilla, a bag of tiger nuts, and a liquorice stick.”

“Coming in here brings back those memories.”

Gillian, who likes the black beer and raisin cordial, said herbalists were like modern-day chemists, recommending treatments.

The temperance movement was aimed at encouraging people to cut back on their alcohol intake and was brought to Rotherham in 1835 by John Guest, of Guest and Chrimes, the company famous for making the screw tap.

Tony said he opened the bar after requests from shop customers, and he plans to expand further by creating a temperance lounge complete with TV and free Wifi.

“It’s going really well, a lot better than we hoped,” he said.

He and Kara both worked for Toys R Us before deciding to set up their own business after their son was born four years ago.

Tony said: “Nostalgia is very big at the moment and people always say how they remember our sweets from their childhood. The favourite is midget gems.”

They had considered Doncaster train station - hence the shop name - but were persuaded to come to Rotherham instead by a council Vitality grant aimed at helping start-up businesses.

The shop featured on the news when high street shopping guru Mary Portas visited.