Liverpool’s pioneering ‘first real bar’ changed the city’s nightlife forever

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A ‘pioneer’ bar that was the first to open in a once run-down part of the city center has become a model for Liverpool’s nightlife for years to come.

Once described as ‘Liverpool’s first proper bar’, the city’s bar and institution last year, Baa Bar, celebrated 30 years since it opened on Fleet Street in 1991.

Not only was it the first bar in town to be licensed to serve alcohol until 2 a.m., it was also the first shooter bar in town.

READ MORE:Bumper: The closure of a cheeky and daring club was the ‘sad end of an era’

If you’ve ever been to Baa Bar, you’re probably familiar with the extensive menu of alcoholic shots with names like “Brain damage”, “Squashed frog” and “Dave”.

Oliver Clarke, Managing Director of Baa Bar, said: “The concept came from America and nobody else wanted to do it.

“It has obviously been replicated elsewhere now, but it will always be synonymous with Baa Bar.

“They had a deal where it was a Stella and a shooter for £1.50, so I think at one point the bar was the biggest seller of Stella in Europe because we sold so many.”

With its pristine neon bar and bright walls, you’d be forgiven for thinking Baa Bar was just another venue to adopt the aesthetic trappings of the city’s now-familiar sophisticated bar scene, except of course that the Baa Bar was the first to do so.

In 1991, the two-story bar was created inside a converted warehouse where all around there were only pubs and nightclubs.

The brand’s eventual success resulted in the opening of nine Baa bars across the country, including three in Liverpool as well as bars in Manchester, Nottingham and Leeds.



Photograph taken by Mark McNulty hanging on the wall inside Baa Bar of the original sign carried on the street

Following the recession and the increasingly competitive nightlife industry, there are only two Baa Bars left – one in Nottingham and the original which opened on Fleet Street in Liverpool 30 years ago .

Oliver said: “The one in Fleet Street is the original and has always been there. It was the first bar in the area.



Photograph taken by Mark McNulty hanging on the wall inside Baa Bar of the original sign carried on the street
Photograph taken by Mark McNulty hanging on the wall inside Baa Bar of the original sign carried on the street

“It opened before Cream, which was a nightclub, when the neighborhood was a run-down area with old warehouses. It was a student bar and a pre-club bar.

“It opened opposite Liverpool Palace and that’s where Echo and the Bunnymen, The La’s, everyone was there because it was a creative hub.

“Naturally, they all went down for a drink after Baa Bar.”

The Liverpool Palace was an alternative shopping arcade on Slater Street which underwent a major revamp in 1991, the same year the Baa Bar opened.

Sadly, Liverpool Palace closed in 2004, just a few years before Quiggins, another of Liverpool’s lost shopping arcades that catered to an alternative audience.



Baa Bar in Fleet Street taken in 2006
Baa Bar in Fleet Street taken in 2006

Oliver said that at one time Baa Bar had a sushi restaurant which could be accessed through its open courtyard which connected the venue directly to Liverpool Palace.

Baa Bar was also an early adopter of the city’s unisex restrooms, which are also accessed through the courtyard.



Baa Bar on the famous Fleet Street Open Court taken in 2006
Baa Bar on the famous Fleet Street Open Court taken in 2006

Although there are only two Baa Bars currently in the country when there were nine, Oliver said the Fleet Street venue has always found the right formula to remain successful.

Oliver said: “We turned 30 last year and couldn’t really celebrate it because of the pandemic, so we’re still planning to recognize it this year with some activity.

“There’s something to celebrate, it’s the first bar in the area and it’s still standing.



Baa Bar entrance on Fleet Street taken in 2006
Baa Bar entrance on Fleet Street taken in 2006

“With all the changes on Duke Street, Seel Street and whatever is still standing. It must not have changed too much.

“It’s had a few renovations to keep it fresh, but the philosophy is the same – cheap drinks, great music.”

Oliver added: “It’s a bit of an institution. We’re very lucky to have quite a large student following because Liverpool is a huge student city.



Baa Bar in Fleet Street taken in 2006
Baa Bar in Fleet Street taken in 2006

“We have an influx of thousands of new students coming in every September and obviously the first thing they want to know is where they can hang out and Baa Bar is always mentioned because it’s an institution.

“The Baa Bar is always lining up around the block on a Saturday night.”

So, while plans to mark 30 years of Baa Bar on Fleet Street sometime later this year have yet to be announced, let’s raise a glass – or a ‘smashed frog’ shooter – to the ‘first real bar in Liverpool”.

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Garlands nightclub in Liverpool, 2006

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