The traditional Liverpool boozer. An endangered species, of that there is no doubt. Given special care and protection from our council? Pull the other one.

In their forest of good news press releases trumpeting the (long awaited) opening of the Hall Lane ‘Strategic Gateway’, and dutifully reprinted in our local media, Liverpool City Council has been less than forthcoming about the delays, cock-ups, and catastrophic impact the work’s had on the residents and businesses adjacent to it all.

But one spot in particular has had it tougher than most.

The Mount Vernon Hotel is one of the city’s most distinctive old-time boozers – a former convent, the pub’s anchored the bottom end of Edge Lane for generations. Throughout the shifting fortunes of Kensington, the tearing down of its factories and warehouses, and the uprooting of its communities, the pub’s doggedly hung on in there.

Not that you’d have cared much four years ago, when current licencee Francis Caffery took the reigns.

“It was a rough place, overrun with scallies, fights every weekend, not somewhere you’d want to spend an evening in,” Caffery (pic r) admits.

Undaunted, Caffery – who successfully ran Cheapside’s karaoke capital, the Rose and Crown prior to heading up town – set out to bring the iconic boozer back to life.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2010, and Mount Vernon had become a cornerstone of the community again. Open mic nights, free wi-fi for students, weekly gigs and charity events: Caffery’s long hours and determination was finally beginning to pay off.

“I remember an elderly couple leaving the pub over Christmas thanking me for giving them their local back,” he says. “I knew we’d turned a corner then, and it made all the hard graft and long hours worthwhile.”

Then the contractors moved in.

“The barriers went down in January 2010,” Caffery says, “and I was told they’d be working around the pub for a maximum of five months.”

Sixteen months later, and the pub’s still ringfenced by maintenance barriers, no entry signs, JCBs and general chaos and confusion. No car park, no obvious means of entry. No chance of a peaceful pint.

“In the past year, our takings have dropped by 70%,” Caffery says, “and no-one seems to care. Birse (the contractors) have dug up the road twice alongside here, then they laid tarmac over all the manhole covers, and had to rip it up and relay it. It’s been a complete joke. They’ve had one man laying three inch paving blocks for five months, and in that time he’s advanced about ten feet. They’ve still not got from the door to the front of the pub.”

Meanwhile, with the pounding of the pneumatic drills and the daily onslaught of dumpers and bulldozers, huge cracks have started to appear around the building’s 200 year old brick courses.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that this inconvenience would be anticipated, off-set, compensated for somehow? That the Council would have been doing all it could to ensure those affected – especially those trying to run a business in a recession – would be shielded from the worst of it all?

Think again.

“It’s taken me 14 months to get any response from them, and only then it was to agree to lower my business rates,” Caffery reveals. “I’ve had to lay off staff, and my family and friends have stepped in to help out. I’ve got two kids, and this is my livelihood. If the pub goes under, we all do.”

Caffery admits the stress and the disruption has brought his close to breaking point. But he’s still here.

“We were starting to get a great lunchtime trade, but that’s all gone now. There’s no way people can call in here until the contractors have left for the evening, and even then it’s so difficult most people have stayed away. We’ve lost our car park, and they’ve rebuilt the access road to be so narrow there’s no way you can park on it,” he says, “and with no lighting, it’s just not safe for elderly customers to come anywhere near.”

You can do a lot with £19million – and for the residents of Hall Lane, this civil engineering project will doubtless bring a huge improvement to their quality of life. But for Caffery, the delays and the disruption have brought him close to calling closing time for good.

“I’d given a community their pub back,” he says, “I just hope we can hang in long enough for our customers to come back.”

Take a look up Kensington High Street. Most of the local pubs are boarded up.  No pubs, houses ripped down, shops shuttered up, communities dispersed. But at least we’ve a brand new road to get excited about.

Still: makes you wonder what they thought it was supposed to be by-passing.

The Mount Vernon,
1 Irvine Street, Liverpool
Tel: 0151 708 6030

 

  • Alan

    Good luck mate.

  • Liverpool Gaz

    Absolute joke. Sounds awful but it’s probably in the wrong area for the council to care. I’m sure if businesses are affected when Allerton Road gets it’s road improvements done that something would be done.

  • Al

    should be font page of the Echo. Well highlighted… many a night in there meeting me dad for a pint as he was finishing up playing Crib and I was heading into town…

  • KT

    Sad and appaling. He should be compensated. That said, the bypass is vital, we’ve known that for decades. And it’s also naive to blame the shops shutting in the area due to the demolition/reconstruction. There’s been no housing market programme where I live, but all the pubs and shops have shut because it’s a poor area and the culture has changed. People are forever moaning about the loss of local shops on the way in the car to ASDA.

  • Scott

    I’m confused about why it took so long for him to get a reduction in business rates – the Valuation Office (who decide how much he pays, not the Council) should have done it in a matter of days if he’d contacted them at the start of the works. It’s a pretty standard move.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    It was indeed the Valuation Office, Scott, who helped him out (‘council’ was our shorthand for those who aren’t familiar with the procedings). The problem was the overrun – this is what he’s been fighting for compensation for. At the beginning of the works, they told him he’d be looking at five months’ worth of disruption.

  • Jack

    The Bears Paw is one rough pub, we were spat at last time we were there. Most of the pubs up that way are not what you’d call welcoming, the Mount Vernon at least does make an effort to make students welcome, so I really hope it survives.

  • P O@N

    As soon as I can get through the barricades I’m in for a pint..keep your chin up, and if people like seven streets keep highlighting your plight, hopefully more peeps will follow..best of luck

  • caffery

    Thanks for the support guys. It took so long for the rates cos the voa were debating about the affect it will do with the business and kept putting us to one side until I had proof. And yet they still don’t blame the fact all access to the pub has been reduced a lot. There was a time were I couldn’t even get deliverys due to lack of access and barrels had to be roled down from by the bearsy.

  • James

    The city council should be looking after its business residents better and I’m really disappointed to read this.

    I think the city need to look very closely at this man’s claims about the paving.

    I for one am not in the slightest bit impressed with a lot of the workmanship in some of the new expensive pavements. We’re all paying for these works, we’ve got a right to know that it’s proceeding efficiently and properly, and the city should be claiming back money if that’s not happening.