Remember the nineties? Concert square and Cream. Heebies and Le Bateau, Magnet and Crash FM. The city was ours for the taking. Heck, Janice Long and Justin Robertson used to drink in Baa Baa. Now it’s Rick Vaughn.
When did we lose control? When did our good bars turn bad? And when are we going to reclaim the city?
The fight is clear cut – it’s between us and a new strain of Liverpool punter. Over the past decade and a half, their DNA has become ever more virulent. Their grip on the city ever tighter. They’ve yet to be classified under any official taxonomy, but we think it’s time they were. Let’s call them the Lifestylers.
You know who we’re talking about. They’re currently to be found lionised in the pages of the city’s free glossy mags. And their bars have set the tone for the city’s snarky, steriod-fuelled nights out from Dale Street to the top of the town.
With their desperate hagiography of the shallow, their self-aggrandizement, their hunger for exposure at all costs (Mersey Shore and Desperate Scousewives here we come…), and the trial of Section 161 orders they leave in their wake, they’re devaluing the city currency we’ve all invested in so heavily.
When Mo*Niques was ordered to close the other week, following a stabbing outside its glittery doors, SevenStreets wasn’t particularly surprised. But we were disappointed. We ran a piece about its plans to offer a left-of-centre diet of review, satire and stand up.
Maybe we were naive in hoping that anything promising Weimar republic-inspired cabaret, witty vaudeville and Tom Waits would ever stand a chance alongside the Morse code vomit of Mathew Street. In the end, they sacked their creative director, and took the easy route of Scouse House and shooters.
But when Heebies was forced into introducing its clubscan ID scanner after a spate of thefts (
and violence,- SevenStreets accepts that the ID scanner was introduced only after thefts) we shuddered. Heebies was one of ours, and the event was yet another depressing wake up call to our nighttime economy. Another reminder that we’re losing a battle that started with the surrender of Concert Square, and the slow retreat away from the city centre for anyone intent on a night out that doesn’t involve metal detectors, sniffer dogs and steroid stares.
This week, the Concert Square Interest Group – which represents interested bodies from local businesses to residents – has tabled proposals to reanimate the square into the leafy, open and welcoming European style piazza it was always meant to be (and was, in that heady summer of 96).
Cllr Steve Munby, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at the council, said: “It became exceptionally popular at night with the bars being full and an overspill of drinkers into the square. That, in itself, can put a strain on emergency and other services. But it meant that the square was not reaching its full potential – during the day there is very little activity and it does not attract visitors. The original vision for it has been lost.
“This has been recognised by the local businesses who acknowledge that there needs to be more variety in what is being offered. They have worked with us and other agencies to see how we can get more varied use back into the square instead of its just being seen as a drinking area.
“The way we have done this is a model for other areas. If we can do this in Concert Square, we can do this anywhere.”
The council added that the new benches that have recently been installed, and the hedges that are supposed to signal some kind of demarcation zone away from Walkabout and Mood, clearly set it apart from the neighbouring streets and create a more relaxed, family friendly atmosphere.
An events programme is planned for this Sunday, with the first in a series of summer Sunday events with street performances from jugglers, magicians, stilt walkers, poets, singers, musicians, floor drawings and novelty acts.
To be honest, we’re not so bothered about the family friendly. We’d just like our square back. And we doubt these plans really do anything other than rearrange the deckchairs. The problem will not be solved with shrubbery. It’s not an infection of the city’s skin, it runs much deeper.
For its part, Heebies says it’s doing all it can to address its problems – and is heavily involved with the voluntary Pub Watch crime prevention scheme. But the fact remains – we might have thought the Lifestylers were happily self-contained in the velvet roped ghettos of Kingdom (hosting a The Only Way Is Essex party tonight Friday, folks. VIP tickets still available) and H Bar (until one stabbing too many forced its closure). But, spurred on by His’n’Her magazine photo-features, friends in PR and heroes who enjoy punch-ups in Southport wine bars, the contagion is spreading.
Little wonder the Shipping Forecast, wisely choosing to turn its back on Slater Street, remains a sole outpost of safety amid a sea of screeching stags and hens, and Leaf, hidden in the undergrowth of Bold Street, remains blissfully off the beaten track. But for how long?
This city has room for everyone. But it’s a curious fact that is doesn’t have a surfeit of great bars. And ventures such as Kazimer, Mello Mello, Santa Chupitos and now defunct DTTDB can’t take the strain alone.
By night, our city centre fun zones have to rub shoulders with each other. It’s this melting pot that has always made for such an eclectic and thrilling night out in Liverpool. But lately things have started to boil over.
Let’s hope, with Concert Square trying to turn back the tide, we can flush out the crap and get back to having a great time again.