Lost Liverpool nightclub that became 'finest' restaurant in the city

Ken Hanley outside Chauffeurs club on Hope Street, Liverpool

The site of a lost Liverpool nightclub which was open for decades transformed into the 'finest' restaurant in the city.

Before its days as a restaurant, 60 Hope Street was home to one of the oldest clubs in the city centre. The building, which is Grade II listed, first opened in 1898 as the Conservative Working Men's Club.

But in 1935, it became a chauffeurs' club where drivers could wait for their wealthy masters. In later years, the site became a taxi drivers' club and went on to see customers from all walks of life pass through its doors.

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Known to most generations as Chauffeurs nightclub, many nights were spent at the Hope Street venue. In its time, Chauffeurs was also home to a thriving Latin dance scene.

Many former customers will remember the staff and previous owners through the years, such as the late Charlie Scott and the club's final owner, Ken Hanley. But after decades in business, it was announced in September 1998 that Chauffeurs would close its doors for good at the end of that month.

Ken Hanley outside Chauffeurs club on Hope Street, Liverpool
Ken Hanley outside Chauffeurs club -Credit:TRINITY MIRROR/REACH CONTENT ARCHIVE

At the time, it was reported how the changing club scene and influx of late night bars had impacted the decision and that owner Mr Hanley was retiring after 16 years. The club previously had a membership list of 500, but this dwindled to 120 or 130 in its final two years in business.

At the time, Mr Hanley said: "Trends have changed, and with the advent of all-day opening and late licences we cannot compete any more. This kind of club is no longer commercially viable."

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Mr Hanley, who died in 1999, added: "The club has always attracted the over-25s and people from all walks of life came here. We were the first in the city to hold weekly Latin dance nights.

"But in the last couple of years there have been maybe 40 or 50 places listed till 2am and they are not paying the sort of licence fees we are paying as a club. I feel sad because Chauffeurs has been part of my life for the past 16 years and we have never had problems to speak of. It has always been a pleasure to be here."

It's now been 25 years since the club closed, but memories of Chauffeurs live on. During the course of his career, former owner Charlie Scott was also the owner of The Mulliner pub on Smithdown Road, Buro and Bottom Draw on Bold Street and La'Go on the corner of Colquitt Street.

Gary and Colin Manning took the decision to close 60 Hope Street restaurant for good after 22 years
Brothers Gary and Colin Manning transformed the site into restaurant 60 Hope Street -Credit:instagram/60hopestreet

Paying tribute in 2022, Mr Scott's sister, Lily, shared her memories of Chauffeurs, recalling the time he refused actor Sean Connery entry because his shoes were dirty.

She previously said: "They were out and someone introduced Sean Connery to Charlie, Charlie went to see him and Sean Connery said 'I'll never forget you, you're the one who wouldn't let me in' - and they became friends. He wouldn't let you in if you had dirty shoes, you had to be smart."

A year after Chauffeurs closed, the site was transformed into a new restaurant. In July 1999, the ECHO reported how 60 Hope Street, opened by the Manning brothers, was already "one of the places "to eat in Liverpool.

The article reads: "Former visitors to the Chauffeurs club will not recognise the interior which has been transformed into a contemporary relaxing restaurant. Downstairs is a relaxing café bar where people can drop in for a quick drink and everything from just a plate of chips to a full meal."

For years, customers headed to 60 Hope Street, which was widely thought to be the 'finest' restaurant in Liverpool. Many will also remember the beautiful doorway designs of the restaurant through the seasons, which often became an Instagram opportunity.

But in May 2021, owners Gary Manning, along with brother Colin, took the decision to close the restaurant for good after 22 years.

In an emotional final farewell message to customers, the Mannings said: "1999 St George's Day, we opened the doors of 60 Hope Street with amazing support from family and friends. Over the past 22 years, it has taken us on the most incredible journey.

"We had so many highs and have been privileged to work with some amazing people. Back in 2008, we were proud to be at the heart of Liverpool's Capital of Culture and the renaissance of our amazing city.

"We would like to thank everyone who made it happen, blessed by the most loyal support from all our customers, some who have become dear friends. As we close the doors of 60 for good, the next chapter begins. See you all again very soo

In January of this year, Asian restaurant Liu Shi moved into the iconic 60 Hope Street building. But many still remember the days of heading there for a night out at Chauffeurs.

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