IT’S only on weekends as midnight approaches that Sauchiehall Street comes alive. And then mainly on that jaggy stretch that dips towards the M8 motorway.

In recent years Glasgow’s most storied boulevard has come to resemble the set of a post-apocalyptic zombie flick: empty shop fronts distressed by weeds and graffiti.

For a few hours on a Saturday night though, it rises anew in a weekly Brigadoon.

The bright lights of fast-food shops offering the herbs and spices of five continents vie for the custom of the Millennials and the Generation Zedders who seem to have taken on the sacred task of keeping this old street from falling into the M8.

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Reigning over them all is the Garage nightclub and concert venue, the building with the front end of a big yellow truck jutting out of it beside the Art Deco splendour of the old Beresford Hotel.

It first opened its doors 30 years ago and this Saturday its owner and kenspeckle advocate for Glasgow’s night-time economy, Donald MacLeod, will host a dusk til dawn 30th birthday party to mark the occasion.

The yellow truck is probably Glasgow’s second most well-known pop art installation behind the Duke of Wellington’s traffic cone hat.

And the Garage itself hosted one of the city’s most iconic concerts when Prince came to play a 2am concert there in 1995.

Along with Frank Sinatra at Ibrox and the Who at Celtic Park, the time that the pocket American rock sprite visited The Garage has a venerated place in Glasgow’s entertainment folklore.

Since then The Garage has hosted thousands of bands, all of whose names are stitched into the walls on the first floor of the venue.

On the night when Prince came to play, 700 were there to see him, although in the three decades that have since elapsed half the city have claimed to have been present.

The stories around his appearance have been told often and mainly about Donald MacLeod having to pay him 15 grand cash up front after Prince’s record company turned off the money supply during a contract dispute with the singer.

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MacLeod’s favourite tale though, is about how the wee man attempted to make a quick getaway from the front of The Garage at the end of the concert.

“A big burgundy limo had been hired from a local business, but the chauffeur had forgotten to disable the child locks.

"So, there’s wee Prince frantically trying to get the door open when a bloke comes out the ship-shop that used to sit across the road. He sees Prince, but doesn’t stop eating his fish supper.

“’Haw, Prince,’ he shouts. ‘Do you want me to come over and give you a hand with that door’?”

MacLeod was born and raised in Glasgow’s south-side and Sauchiehall Street formed the backdrop for all his teenage adventures.

Like me, he’s appalled at the extent of its disrepair.

As one by one, the lights have gone out at the top end of the street it can seem like it’s in the critical ward and that The Garage, assisted by those ancillary businesses, is operating the life support machine.

Marks & Spencer and Victoria’s and BHS and the banks may all have gone but you form the impression that if The Garage had to shut its doors that would be a mortal blow.

In the 1980s and 1990s, few other streets in the UK had as many clubs within its reach. We start rhyming them off: Maestro’s, the Rooftops; Ultratheque; The Cotton Club, Reds, Zanzibars, Cardinal Folly and Henry Afrika’s. And then Glasgow City Council in one of its routine bouts of panic over people enjoying themselves issued a diktat that all clubbers had to be inside their club of choice by midnight.

The Garage stands on the sight previously occupied by several other famous old venues: The war-time Gainsborough; the Astoria, Shuffles and Mayfair. MacLeod, who also owns the Cathouse on Union Street, decided that Glasgow’s increasing student population needed somewhere decent to go beyond the university and college unions.

“At the outset, I didn’t imagine that the Garage would last more than a few years,” he said.

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“The shelf-life of clubs in those days was around five years. Trends and fashions change and there are stiff challenges of keeping drink prices affordable in a sector where there’s always something new around the corner for a very discerning customer base.

“But we’ve always kept it simple at The Garage. The young people who come here know that it’s a good club but, more importantly, that it’s safe here and that the staff all feel a duty of care towards them.

"Many of them are the children and, in some cases, the grandchildren of our first customers.”

Kelly, one of his senior managers, has been working here for 16 years and started as a part-time cleaner.

“It’s like a family here,” she tells me. “Many of us have been here for most of our adult lives and we’ve got to know many of the clubbers who keep returning over the years.”

If The Garage emerged in adversity it’s nothing compared with the jeopardy currently hanging over Glasgow’s hospitality sector and its night-time economy.

A perfect storm of an extended Covid lockdown, supply increases and Glasgow city centre’s Low Emission Zone have ripped the heart out of an industry which is now on its knees.

MacLeod has emerged as one of its most outspoken defenders.

He’s a former supporter of Scottish independence, but now harbours a deep loathing for the SNP.

“It’s almost as though they’re offended by the thought of ordinary people trying to enjoy themselves,” he said.

“They seem to take pleasure from adopting positions on Covid restrictions and on the Low Emission Zone which are as extreme as they can possibly be.”

“During the pandemic, Glasgow was one of the most locked down cities in Europe. And, as we now know, much of this was unnecessary and enacted by people who quite literally, didn’t know what they were doing.

"It’s a similar situation with the LEZ zone. Absolutely no one I know is opposed to the principle of a greener environment, but enforcing such zealous and stringent restrictions wasn’t justified by the figures.

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“What’s happened is that young people know they face a struggle to get home safely after midnight, especially those from poorer areas who might not have the means to afford the huge increase in taxi fares or whose parents don’t have LEZ-compliant cars.

"It breaks my heart, because I care about them all.

“They come here to leave the week’s challenges behind and I think we have a duty to provide a safe, affordable space for them and to ensure they get home safely.

"Yet, this government insists on treating the hospitality and entertainment industry with contempt, and in doing so have destroyed the livelihoods of thousands who rely on us.”

As Saturday becomes Sunday we embark on a tour of The Garage and its dancefloors and bars strung out over three storeys.

You’re immediately struck by the innocence and vulnerability of these kids.

In the club nights of my youth there was a studied hardness and machismo in places like these where the blokes were on a mission and often at the end of an eight-hour drinking session.

On Saturday night these dancefloors were full of young people who’d missed out on two years where lasting friendships are made and they learn about social engagement and intimacy.

Your heart melts for them.

“We’ve got two fully-equipped medical rooms in The Garage,” says MacLeod.

“What breaks your heart is how many young people we treat with anxiety issues, stemming from the loss of social interaction.”

In time, this will all pass and Sauchiehall Street will rise once more.

And the Garage and its Big Yellow Truck and its bigger heart will have played a massive part in it.