Liverpool had a really bad day a couple of weeks ago. On top of the news that the Banksy Rat graffito’d building was going to make way for a chain coffee house and rumours surrounding the fate of Mello Mello came the crushing news that The Caledonia was closing down.
While plans are afoot to keep the much-loved boozer open (there’s cautious optimism in the air), the building’s owners have given landlady Laura King a month to vacate the premises, having been made a tempting offer by a developer (student flats, needless to say).
We talked to Laura last year on the pub’s second birthday and were happy to tell the story of a pub-done-good, rescued from a withered vine and made the focal point of a community of musicians, beer drinkers, beer makers, artists, chess players.
That this singular Liverpool success story could be sold behind the landlady’s back, consigned to a monolithic redevelopment that could see the 200-year-old building bulldozed didn’t simply strike us as crass, brutal and greedy; it struck us as an absolute scandal.
Thankfully Mayor Joe Anderson has stepped in to buy The Cali some time, but we can’t be complacent. We wanted to explain to the brewery who are selling up for the cash that this isn’t just another fading pub good only for liquidation; it’s a beloved pub in the city.
We wanted to explain to the council that The Cali is a shining example of what is possible when people in the city work hard to build something of real community value. And we wanted to explain to everyone in Liverpool that they should support their local – or not-so-local – boozer, especially The Cali in its hour of need.
We wanted to say how great The Cali is – in form and word and deed. So we spoke to seven different people who told us their stories of what this old corner pub means to them. We’re sure there are hundreds more stories like this for pubs across the region. For now, this is the story of The Caledonia, the people who love it and the reasons it deserves to remain a vital hub in Liverpool’s many communities.
The Caledonia is an amazing pub with a real community spirit and it will be a sad day if it closes its doors. When we started our brewery in 2011, The Cali was one of the first to regularly serve our beer and and has done ever since.
Laura, and the Caledonia are always at the forefront of promoting local people, whether in business, music or general community spirit and it will be a big loss for the city should it lose this precious community hub.
Liverpool Craft Brewery
The Caledonia is an institution, dragged up from the dregs three years ago and grown into the thriving hub that it is today. I wanted to run a real pub, one that is not just a business but a home, a place for people to share their lives and build a community. It’s been my privilege to plant the seeds, tend the plot and watch it bloom almost organically into what it is today.
When we first opened we had trouble getting people through the door, when our news broke last week we couldn’t fit them all in. The Caledonia should stay because it proves that community isn’t dead.
It also proves that if you have a dream and work hard you can achieve it. It’s a music venue, an ale house, a creative hub, a meeting place, a community center, a destination, a home, a pub.
Hundreds of friendships have been forged here and I want there to be a hundred more. Save The Caledonia.
In a part of town not short of quality hostelries, The Caledonia still stands out for many reasons. My first visit during this incarnation of the pub was on a mid-summer Sunday night years ago and I was treated to live music that managed to be both absorbing but also not intrusive to those seeking a pint and conversation.
The range and condition of ale is always excellent, whilst the layout draws you to the bar before offering quiet seats for two or more tables to dot your mates around. Food is served, not just via a press of a microwave button, and the large windows expose customers to the full range of English weather.
Stepping in off the street reveals a den to escape to, put the world to rights in or listen to the music. The place evokes memories, is involved in thoughts of the future, has soul. Keep it that way.
The Resident Band
I think the first words Laura said to me were “when I get my own pub you’re having a regular gig” – and in what seemed like no time at all it happened. We immediately felt at home and have spent the last three years making friends, playing and listening to fantastic music. We’ve made nuisances of ourselves on more than one occasion, but have always been welcomed back.
When the Foghorn Stringband from Portland, Oregon had a gap in their schedule, Laura agreed to put them on – with five days notice – on a Monday night. The night was such a success that when they toured again, they insisted that they had to play at the Caledonia again.
That is what the Caledonia is all about – it’s become a local for people from far and wide. We are the Caledonia, and long may she sail.
The Loose Moose String Band
The Social Club
Atticus Chess Club was conceived in the early 1970s and was then connected with the University of Liverpool. Since then Atticus has broken formal ties with the universities and has been nomadic for several years. As a result we’ve played in a lot of strange venues, not all of which have been suitable.
We happened across the Caledonia as there’s it’s close to the university and there’s probably something of a link between chess and consumption of real ale – when the Everyman Bistro closed I think real-ale drinkers, creatives and academics were looking for a similar local. Certainly the choice of beer was at least a partial factor in us choosing the Cali as our new venue.
We use the rooms upstairs and play at least one night a week – frequently two – throughout most of the year. We probably bring between 20 and 40 people who are there for the chess; afterwards we like to talk about the games and enjoy the beer. We also stay for the music and will head down to the pub on other nights.
The Caledonia is a very good social space for us – Atticus is the most sociable it’s been in best part of decade. If it were to close it would be massively problematic for us to find another venue quickly and it would probably mean using a venue that was a lot less attractive. I hope for our sake and that of the other users and Laura, the landlady, that it doesn’t.
Chairman, Atticus Chess Club
The best thing about the Caledonia is that you can see original bands for free, not cover bands and tribute bands like other places. My established Free Rock & Roll events at Mello Mello started at the Cali before they grew too big.
I wanted to do an event that was just about the music and not guest lists and hipsters; The Cali was the obvious place being a great buidling and it a good part of town.
It would have been even better had the current landlady been there then; she knows music and what people want.
I’ve learned about bluegrass, cajun and jazz – music that I didn’t know before The Caledonia.
The Beer Drinker
Despite being quite well brought up, I do swear quite a bit. So when I heard of the news about The Cali, my reaction was simple and blue.
As an Anglo-Irishman, I love good pubs. As a working brewer and beer geek, I’m a sucker for a well-kept decent local beer. As a bit of a romantic, I love the cultural rags to riches story of an unloved pub becoming a vibrant cultural hub.
And as a thinking, feeling human, I hate to see things of beauty, produced with passion, hard work and determination get trampled under the wheels of some uncaring money-making deal.
It’s a bit of a daft thing to say, but people who like certain good things, often like other good things, and good local beer, a friendly atmosphere, great live music and home-cooked good-value food are all part of the pub’s DNA and have contributed to its success in the three years since Laura took over.
Joe Anderson tweeted that he “will sort” this situation out. The many people who love this pub will buy you a pint of whatever you’re having Joe, if you can help save this gem of a place.
• You can pledge your support for The Caledonia by signing this petition