Liverpool is known for a vibrant cultural scene, and big the personalities who populate it. Its reputation is perhaps rooted in music: the infamous Mersey Beat, carved out in the 60s, by those four boys we all know and love, who don’t even need to be mentioned by name. There are also its several galleries and artistic hubs; the Tate gallery chose to place its only venue outside London right here on the Albert Dock for a reason, you know.
Players from around the globe have come to tread the boards of no less than seven major theatres just in the city centre, as well as countless fringe venues and pubs that anyone from outside the city could perhaps mistake for a rolling soap opera set. It’s entirely possible that some have been, at one point: there is a rapidly lengthening list of TV shows and films to have been filmed amongst the historic streets, with Liverpool landmarks rolling onto BBC screens, Hollywood, and beyond.
And that leads us to what is fast becoming a whole franchise of TV series inspired bars across Merseyside: the Peaky Blinders Bars.
The latest addition to the Baltic Triangle area in the city centre, the Peaky Blinders Bar, opened last month, theatrically, of course, after an introducing scene by local actors and an energetic black horse, menacingly staring down curious revellers and puffing hot breath at each command of his handler, who was in full costume. It has now been released that this bar is to be joined by another, this time in Southport, close to the original PB inspired hotel, after the huge success of the expanding business.
The bars do their best to emulate the atmosphere, if not the sets, of the 1920s watering holes frequented by the likes of Tommy Shelby and his miscreants. The Baltic Triangle’s PB site takes over the space left vacant by Cain’s Brewery, and inserts itself into a micro-climate hub of other bars and themed venues, such as Ghetto Golf and the soon-to-be Goonies themed bar, as well as a pocket full of niche vintage and antique shops and cafés.
Now, after the first few weeks of business, and even in the dead of January, curiosity for the new venue hasn’t yet been curbed: punters arrive often dressed to the nines in their best 20s dress; sequins, suits and champers seem to rule the night of a weekend, even though no formal dress code exists.
Industrial beer tankards tower over the entrance just inside the door, embossed with the Peaky Blinders Bar logo, and lead our eye to the large circle bar set at the centre of the sizeable, multi-levelled room that constitutes the main space. Guests mill around, standing, or sitting at wooden tables surrounded by crushed velvet benches that run along the walls, under chandeliers that drip from the iron girders above.
Outside, wood-burning bins that aim to bring the atmosphere of the Birmingham-on-the-brink we see on screen, warm the hands of outdoor drinkers and a few oddly familiar gents in those infamous hats.
Not only in full costume but also in full character, some surrounding me on my visit were initially unsure if these two Peaky Blinders were security staff or simply there to complete the illusion.
The overall reception has been striking, however, there is maybe one factor to garner a mixed remark since the grand opening, and that is the imposing presence of life several sized portraits of the cast of the BBC production adorning the walls.
Some seem to find this fantastic, and eagerly nestle up to Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, frozen in frame. Others, however, seem unsure. It’s almost as if the illusion is cracked, just a little, by the hyperbole of having the actors stare down at you.
Although, it’s nothing a Tommy Shelby cocktail or two might fix.
This all speaks to any Liverpudlians taste for theatrics, when it promises a good time, which just seems to be in the blood of the average scouser. We can only wonder what the third instalment of this new saga will bring.