by | Nov 4, 2020 | Client focus

The Arts Bar

Ever dreamed of opening a bar with your mates? Well, Alex, Ben, Jordan and Tom have done exactly that. Located on Hope Street facing the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool Arts Bar opened in 2019 and the name is no accident… “I’m a trained actor and director” says Alex. “Tom is an actor, musician and musical director, and Jordan has a background working as a theatre technician. Ben studied astrophysics, but he also happens to be a champion Latin and ballroom dancer… We like to make jokes about him dancing with the stars!”

It might sound like the start of a comedy sketch, but together these four friends have built something quite unique in the hospitality sector. “We met in 2015 and started to put together events as a team. We ran immersive experience nights in venues across the city, transforming the basement of Heebie Jeebies into speakeasy for a prohibition night, and a school gym for a 1950’s themed Homecoming. At the same time, we all worked in hospitality jobs in bars, restaurants and pubs across the city which helped to fund our projects.”

These projects allowed the four friends to connect their own contacts by bringing actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and artists together. “Ask anyone in the creative industry about the Everyman Bistro and they’ll tell you it was the place to be in the 70’s and 80’s. We wanted to bring that same kind of creative hub back to the city, to have a space filled with talented people where we could showcase their work. We were renting a space upstairs in the Masonic Hall which we used as a rehearsal room, and after work we would come down to the bar here to have a drink together. It became our local, so when we realised there was a business opportunity here it seemed obvious to us that it would be a perfect space to bring together our own events.” 

Restrictions on time and budget meant that the team had just four days to transform the bar before they opened. “There were things we wanted to do which we just couldn’t find time for like moving the bar to open up the space. Now, we realise that having a central bar is perfect as it allows us to us that space in different ways, serving customers on one side who are here for a performance whilst accommodating customers on the other side of the bar who might have just called in for a chat. It’s also perfectly placed to allow us to connect people together!”

Connecting their customers is something that the team are passionate about. “We attract customers who have similar interests and that has given us a unique opportunity” says Ben. “Say we have a band in after their rehearsal. We chat to them so we understand their future plans, and then we can introduce them to a local photographer or videographer on the other side of the bar who might be able to help them out. In the short time we’ve been open we’ve already evolved to become a kind of support network for the creative industry, bringing people together. It’s a great feeling when we see customers who we’ve introduced working or socialising as a group!”

Although the bar is currently closed due to Tier 3 restrictions, Alex and Ben are positive about the future. “We’ve had some challenges in the last few months navigating funding, furlough, grants and new regulations. It’s been a real business education, but we know that we’ll be stronger in the future because of it. We took our time reopening after the first lockdown as we wanted to make sure that our customers and our staff felt safe coming back. We visited other bars and restaurants with our team to figure out what made us feel confident as customers and tried to implement those measures in our own space. We want our customers to come here and just forget about the outside world for a while, and whilst we take every step we can to ensure their safety we also want to keep that same great atmosphere which makes us unique. ”

They also have plans for a website and online platform. “We’ve built a real community here and just because we’re closed, it doesn’t mean that can’t continue to grow. We had great support from our customers during the last lockdown when we hosted virtual events like coffee mornings and pub quizzes online, but now we want to give back by supporting others who promote diversity, equality and sustainability in our creative community. Our artists are struggling, and we have to support them.”

The team are also clear about the role that they want to play in supporting their own local community when they do reopen. “We try not to compete with our neighbours, so if a nearby bar hosts a blues night on a Tuesday then we’ll try to do something totally different. We often send our customers to other venues – for example if you love Jazz, we’re probably going to send you over to the Grapes on a Sunday night! We want our neighbours to be successful, and we want to work together with them to breathe life back into the Creative Quarter.”

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