Street hoping to step out of Smithdown's shadow with a character all of its own

Church Road, Wavertree
-Credit: (Image: Liverpool Echo)

At the junction of some of South Liverpool's busiest and best-known streets lies Church Road.

Named due to St Barnabas Church being at one end of the road and the Holy Trinity Church being at the other, it sits close to Smithdown Road, Allerton Road and Penny Lane - but has a distinctive character all of its own.

With pubs, bars and restaurants between the two churches; the Wavertree street is keen to step out from the shadows of its illustrious neighbours and become a top destination for locals, students and anyone else looking for a drink and bite to eat.

The Liverpool ECHO manoeuvred its way past the students on Smithdown and the tourists on Penny Lane to spend the afternoon on Church Road to speak to some of the businesses about the street, its community and its future.

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What became clear in every conversation with businesses is that, despite being surrounded by hugely popular venues on other streets, Church Road has managed to form its own unique community. The street is lucky to have a large number of loyal regulars.

A key part of that community is, undoubtedly, The Richmond Tavern. The pub sits just above Penny Lane Shopping Centre and has been a fixture on Church Road for over 20 years. Dan Astles, the assistant manager, highlighted the importance of the regulars as well as the family feel of the pub.

Richmond Tavern, Church Road
Richmond Tavern, Church Road

He said: "Everyone knows each other. All the regulars who come in here, I know for a fact that they live off the side roads here so they all come in and everyone talks to each other which is exactly what we want for the pub."

In the Twenty First Amendment Bar, at little bit down the road from the Tavern towards Penny Lane, manager Megan Poynter also told the ECHO about the community the bar has been welcomed into since its opening in 2020.

Twenty First Amendment
Twenty First Amendment

She said: "[The Bar] is full of regulars. It's the same faces every week. I see people in this bar more than my own family. Nine times out of 10 when someone new comes in the bar you will see them again and again."

Megan said businesses often come together to support fundraising events organised by the nursery, Kids Planet Waverton House, on the road.

It's apparent that Church Road has become a special place for many - but perhaps not quite as special as it is for the owner of the Doghouse pub, Paul White, who met his wife on Church Road.

The Doghouse, Church Road
The Doghouse, Church Road

Paul told us the story of how his marriage inspired the birth of the Doghouse. He said: "I was originally the manager of this place 15 years ago when it was called Schmooze. It was the place where me and my wife met, we used to work together. I stepped away from the industry for about 10 years but then saw it was up for sale. So six months before we got married I bought it and didn't tell her."

Paul jokingly adds: "I saw it as a romantic move to buy the place where me met before we got married, but she wasn't too pleased about it to be honest."

The Doghouse opened seven years ago and has firmly established itself. Ben McQueen, a member of the bar staff at the pub, believes the loyal community separates the street from surrounding roads.

He said: "I see Church Road as its own thing [from Smithdown Road]. Smithdown is more just students, whereas we have older clientele so it serves its own purpose."

Ben McQueen at The Doghouse
Ben McQueen at The Doghouse

Ben also feels that Church Road can have its "moment" similar to Smithdown Road, which has seen a flourishing of new businesses and events in recent years.

He added: "We always get tourists from Penny Lane. People want to come in to get food and to get drinks."

Church Road businesses, like everyone in the industry, felt the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Doghouse, however, managed to stay afloat thanks to their regulars. Paul set up a 'beer van' which meant they could drive to pour fresh pints on regulars' doorsteps.

Spire restaurant, which serves customers on Church Road 'modern British and European cuisine', opened on the corner of Penny Lane and Church Road in 2005 and got its name from St Barnabas Church directly opposite.

Spire Restaurant, Church Road
Spire Restaurant, Church Road

Matt described the area as "always buzzing" and thinks the offering that the streets in the area have makes it feel like a "mini-town". He said the restaurant has a "massive regular community who have been coming for years."

He does, however, believe that business has slowed since the pandemic as people "simply don't have the money to spend" as much but has hopes that will change.

Matt Locke, owner of Spire
Matt Locke, owner of Spire

Part of Matt's hope for a brighter future on Church Road is the thought that the businesses on Smithdown Road can "continue down the road towards us."

The effect of the pandemic and lockdowns was much more direct on the Twenty First Amendment bar in that it provided the bar with its name. Manager Megan explained how once lockdown ended, the owners bought the bar and named it after the US Constitutional amendment which ended the prohibition on alcohol .

She expressed similar feelings to Matt about the connection between Church Road and Smithdown Road. She said the bar "definitely feels a positive impact" from when the Smithdown festival takes place but wishes that the flow of students from Smithdown was consistently greater.

Dan, of the Richmond Tavern, also said "an injection of students" may be necessary for Church Road to grow.

Megan jokes: "It would be nice if students could make it past the Brookhouse."

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