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Liverpool Arts Bar: How four mates got together to launch the go-to venues for the city’s creatives

1 year ago

Liverpool Arts Bar: How four mates got together to launch the go-to venues for the city’s creatives

Just under four years ago, four mates opened Liverpool Arts Bar on Hope Street with a budget of £200 and an idea of having somewhere that supported artists like themselves.

Alex Medlicott, Ben Cosgrove, Tom Wilson and Jordan Bucknall were running their own events company after meeting at John Moores Uni but had no real experience in hospitality beyond side jobs in bars and restaurants.

The concept they set out to create has been so successful that they’ve added a second venue, Arts Bar Baltic, on the site of the old Baltic Social that’s already become a place for local musicians, artists and actors to meet and collaborate.

“We were big fans of Baltic Social and Leaf which were here before,” says Alex. “With Elevator being recording studios and a space for creative companies, this is is such a creative part of the city, so what we do really fits the area and the building in particular.

“We’re not just a bar, we care about the customers because most people who come here are artists themselves and the four of us being artists means we understand what they want and need. 

“Having Baltic Creative and all the other businesses around here, venues like Camp & Furnace, Hangar 34 and Content, and the studios above, the Baltic feels like a creative ecosystem and we’re a ground floor hub for that.”

The four friends, now in their late 20s and early 30s, set up their events company after working on projects and theatre shows together.

Alex trained in theatre as an actor and director, Ben is a ballroom and Latin dancer, Tom is a musician and Jordan is a technician, so they all brought something different.

Initially they rented a studio above what was an afternoon tea venue on Hope Street, but when the owner told them the building was about to be available, they quickly found themselves agreeing to take it on.

“We’d realised there was a need for young creatives in the city to have what we’d all been told the Everyman Bistro and Mello Mello were back in the day – somewhere for emerging artists to collaborate in a hospitality environment.

“We thought we could put on events every night of the week if we had our own venue,” says Alex.

Liverpool Arts Bar - The Guide Liverpool

They opened Liverpool Arts Bar in July 2019, only to see Covid shut it down eight months later.

But instead of ruining their business, the pandemic actually helped to expand it. 

“We jumped to online so we still hosted our pub quiz but through Facebook live, we still did open mic where artists sent us videos of them playing at home, and we did the same with live gigs on Fridays and Saturdays. We set up Tip the Band so people could donate to local artists so they were still getting paid for gigs.

“At the start of lockdown we had 2k Instagram followers and we came out with about 15k. When we reopened there was a queue round the corner because everyone wanted to come to this place they’d followed, and it’s just grown and grown since.

“We put in two floors of studio spaces in Hope Street, dance practice and theatre rehearsal spaces, band practice rooms, and then we took Baltic on in March this year.”

It’s only been a couple of months, but Arts Bar Baltic has become a day and night place for creatives to meet, showcase what they do, and just have a good time.

Daytimes are geared towards networking and doing the back office stuff that artists have to do like booking gigs and exhibitions, then evenings are about the events, having a drink, meeting with friends and using free space for new music and art.

Bakesale, which used to run from Chapter of Us, has taken over the kitchens for breakfasts and lunch, and the four have teamed up with photographer Laura McCann who curates monthly art exhibitions at Hope Street and soon in the Baltic.

Alex says running two venues is full-on, but they still find time for the original passions which inspired it all.

“Tom plays in the house band on aWednesday night, I still work with the Everyman, Ben competes at weekends in ballroom/Latin and Jordan does all our tech so we’ve been able to keep our own things going.

“We really fell into running Arts Bar but it’s the best decision we’ve ever made. We’ve become a creative hub and we didn’t realise how important that was until we did it. Now we’re like LinkedIn but for creatives and through a bar, basically linking people up and bringing people together.”

Find out more about Liverpool Arts Bar HERE.

Get the latest culture news for Liverpool HERE.



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