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The Phoenix Rises: new hotel in Kirkdale

THE Phoenix Pub on Foley Street was once the beating heart of the community - proudly boasting the biggest bar in Liverpool.

Sadly, it lay derelict for nearly 20 years - until a pair of young entrepreneurs from Bootle reopened the doors of the local landmark in June.


Childhood best pals James Winters, an electrical contractor, and Rob Edwards, a structural engineer and architect, now both in their 30s, have combined their knowledge to transform the dilapidated building into a luxury hotel and bar.


James says: “This is the first hotel project we’ve done together, but we’ve done a few residential projects together before.” And both men have pursued several projects independently.


They initially checked out the building for apartments. James explains: “We drew up plans for nine apartments originally. But we are both football fans so we know the area and the passing traffic from matches, and we started to toy with the idea of a hotel instead.”


Retaining its local heritage, and furnished with a stylish interior, the old boozer now aims to rival city centre hotels and bring visitors into Kirkdale.


Rob says: “Aside from the area near the Malmaison Hotel, there is no higher end accommodation around.”


James adds: “You’ve got your Airbnbs and converted terrace houses. But we wanted to offer more of a hotel feel, so people would come here for a city break.


"We want to be a pillar of the community and invite local people in. The place has got such a rich history in the area and a lot of positive memories."


“If you book a room with us, we are going to pay for your taxi to the city centre as part of your booking. We’re trying to give people that reason to come to the outskirts of the city. We’ve got free parking, and you’re getting good value for money in luxury accommodation.”


Although “fire and water damaged” at the start, the building has since seen a rapid transformation. “We actually purchased it at the end of August 2019, and we went for planning at the start of September.” Rob says.


The quick turn around is something “we try to model ourselves on,” James adds.


“We cut out the middle man. But we also try to turn the development around with speed and get a good end product as well.”


Like many businesses, the pandemic set their initial plans back. “it has affected us with the lack of match-day traffic, but we didn’t purely pin our business model on the football,” says Rob.


“We didn’t take any account of the bar when we did our numbers. All we have done is base our figures on the hotel side, which offers more opportunities for generating revenue.”


From the outset, the hotel aspired to offer weekly live entertainment, and they have begun hiring local musicians to play outside when the weather permits. They also offer live sport – with strict social distancing measures in place.



But the project is not all about making money for the hoteliers. They both have a strong sense of social responsibility and Rob has a particular affinity with the local community, with his family “literally living on the same road” as their new venture.


Since opening to the public, they have enhanced the cobbled street out front, which is proving to be a popular new destination for locals. “Now we’re open, we’ve got the parasols outside and we are getting people stopping by,” Rob says.


“And everyone who comes in here to see it is delighted,” Rob says.


James adds: “We want to be a pillar of the community and invite local people in. The place has got such a rich history in the area and a lot of positive memories.


“I think people are happy to see someone actually investing in the pub building and also in the community. It is generating jobs, and it’s a place they can come and spend time with the family. We’ve even had people stopping in on a Sunday with their dogs.


“On Mondays, we are going to be doing Kirkdale coffee mornings for older residents to come in for a drink – free of charge.”


Also, in the August Bank Holiday is the hotel will run the ‘Phoenix Festival’, which will host a day of activities and live entrainment, plus a pop-up bar and hog roast. The event will be in collaboration with two local football teams and open for the public to attend.


Creating local jobs, running community engagement events and bringing investment to the local economy – the resurrection of the iconic pub is already delivering benefits to the local area. But Kirkdale’s newest neighbours are just getting started.


James says: ”We’re young lads, and we’re here for the long run. We are going to continue to grow and expand if we can.”


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