“When we bought the pub from Cains Brewery five years ago, we initially wanted to bring our barber’s shop here, but we knew that what Birkenhead lacked was a real ale pub,” says Gallaghers Pub’s Frank Gallagher
“We thought the town was ready for a place that sold the sort of craft ales and premium lagers you could get in Liverpool. We took a punt, and we were proved right,” he says of his bar (run with partner Sue) – an instant hit, and now CAMRA award-winning favourite for locals and travelling beer fans.
“This area has always been a meeting point to go to Liverpool, like Wetherspoons and, previously, Rinty Monaghan’s before it. We wanted to capture that crowd before they went and spent their money over the water,” Frank says.
So what happens next? How does Gallagher’s plan for its second five years? For Frank it’s simple: Birkenhead needs to turn its riverside advantage into the complete package. A real destination again.
“Birkenhead grew from the river,” he says. “You just have to take a leaf out of Liverpool’s book to see the potential we’re wasting.”
Instead, Frank points to the industrial estate and sewage works occupying prime position opposite Liverpool’s resurgent Pier Head. Wasted opportunity after wasted opportunity.
“I want people to come off the ferry into Woodside Village – a real hub of activity, with great signage, and a trail of local businesses and heritage sites to explore, all the way into town,” he says.
“If we don’t capture people, they’re gone – straight down the A41 on the fastest route out of here.
“Little things can make a big difference, and give the impression that we really care about this place,” he says, with a final thought. “And let’s get the tram route extended.”
You don’t have to look far to see an example of what happens when a city returns to the water. So successfully has it reinvented itself over the past thirty years, that it’s hard to remember Liverpool without its waterfront.
But at the beginning of the 1980s, Albert Dock was a silted up no-man’s-land. It was Michael Heseltine, Thatcher’s Secretary of State for the Environment sent to a city still smouldering after the Toxteth riots, who was the catalyst for the Mersey Basin Campaign: a 25-year project to work with a myriad of different stakeholders.
Now, Liverpool waterfront is the jewel in the crown of the city’s resurgent tourist offer: and is home to as many popular new attractions as it is to swanky new office developments and desirable residential addresses.