A Chat With: G Bar

Established in 1996, G Bar has promoted diversity and equality for almost a quarter of a century. Its House music and Drag entertainment is renowned in Liverpool and beyond, boasting one half of producing duo Camelphat and Ru-Pauls Drag Race UK winner The Vivienne as former resident artists.

Now, as the night economy in the Liverpool City Region emerges from its COVID-19 induced slumber, we catch up with G Bar Manager, Andrew Pankhurst, to talk Bevs and Beats, Eberle Street Socials and how the venue is embracing the ‘new normal’ with some exciting new plans.

G Bar has been a stalwart of the scene for 24 years now, can you tell us a bit about that journey?

“It all started off in one room within the premises on Eberle Street, but it very quickly expanded into two more, creating three different rooms of music and making G Bar the largest and most diverse LGBT+ nightclub in Liverpool, as well as one of the oldest.

“We’ve continually worked with, and promoted local producing and DJ talent, whilst also hosting many internationally renowned artists from record labels such as Toolroom Records. Not to mention an extensive back catalogue of fabulous Drag Queens. 

“Today, we still have some of the best DJ’s that the city has to offer, not to mention a Drag Line up that’s renowned for being pretty top notch and are renowned for our Pride event. Every year, we take over the car parks at the rear of the premises and turn them into an event space, attracting a footfall of around 4,000 people. 

“We now also operate every weekend outside on Eberle Street, as part of our Eberle Street Social event (from 5pm – late Fridays and Saturdays), as we take our business outside during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

What is G Bar’s unique offer to the Stanley Street Quarter?

“G Bar brings more than just being a ‘nightclub’ to the table though, if I’m honest. It’s more of an institution now and it’s become a staple part of a lot of people’s lives. In some respects, it’s like part of a family to some people. Somewhere that people feel comfortable, without oppression or judgement for being the people that they are.  

“As much as LGBT+ people have moved forward in the equality stakes, there are still some members of the community that feel stigmatisation in other areas of the city, but in G Bar – and other places in the Gay Quarter – they don’t. 

“G bar is, and always has been, a safe clubbing haven for all – irrespective of who you are. Labels are left on the way in, along with any judgement.  

Another thing that makes G Bar so special to some, is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. It just bares all. I think that’s what people love about it. You know what you’re getting, and that you’re getting a good time, that’s what makes G Bar so special.”

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way G Bar has operated in the past. During lockdown you offered your ‘Bevs and Beats’ takeaway service. Was that successful for you?

“We considered launching our takeaway service quite early on in lockdown, but at the height of the pandemic we weighed up the safety aspects versus business strategy and we felt it wasn’t worth the risk at the time. 

We started the Bevs and Beats takeaway service from the doorway before our July 4th reopening and ran it for two weeks. It proved popular, however, I was relieved when we were able to bring the table service measures into the mix. Takeaway drinks posed the added pressure of making sure people actually took their drink away with them, which was difficult to manage.”

And since your reopening, how have you embraced the challenges posed by social distancing measures?

“When we were initially told that we could re-open in a seated and table service capacity, it was straight to the drawing board with what we could do to preserve the business during these difficult times. G Bar usually does outside events on the street, but in a different capacity – such as our very popular (and busy) annual street parties.

“Obviously, this wasn’t going to be safe or possible during COVID-19, so we decided to use our outside space by obtaining a pavement license allowing us to use street furniture outside the venue on Eberle St. At first, I wasn’t sure entirely that it would be successful – mostly because I had no idea if people would stay (and stay sat down) and adhere to the new restrictions we had imposed. But they did.

“What we discovered was that by having people sit outside (socially distanced) we created a kind of European, al fresco and cultured ‘feel’ to the street. It’s really taken off and we’re quite delighted by how popular it has become. Utilising our outside space even more, we now do a quite unique quiz each Sunday (6pm – late), which is hosted by resident Drag Queen, Minnie Cooper, with a £50 prize and several runner up prizes. Best of all, it’s actually FREE to enter now – so you should give it a try!

“Moving inside, when we come indoors during the night – we still operate a table service policy. We have our resident Queens and DJs on weekly still providing you all with entertainment as you sit and drink. We also have some exciting new plans up our sleeves too.”

What has been the wider impact of the pandemic on G Bar and other LGBT+ venues in the city region? 

“It’s been very hard, quite devastating in fact. The worst thing is, really, we’re not even remotely going through the worst of it yet, because the recession has only just started. Support has come in the form of hospitality grants and suchlike, but to be honest with the rent that we pay alone, it’s running out quickly.

“Nightclubs and music venues are some of the last businesses that are able to open properly, so I feel that if we are to remain effectively shut or reduced in our operation capacity that maybe more help targeted towards these businesses wouldn’t go amiss. I know that this is something that feasibly probably isn’t even a possibility, but you can always hope!

“I think we’re all supporting each other, but everyone is very focused on themselves at the moment. That’s natural though, as we are having to implement all of these new procedures and train staff effectively. I don’t think anyone has a minute to think clearly at the moment!

I think we have pulled together though, especially all the staff. I am so thankful for the way in which my staff have completely changed the way they work and managed to master a completely new skill set in a matter of days. They’ve all been brilliant and so have the customers! 

This year our theme is ‘Young At Heart’, which promotes the right for LGBT+ people to live happy, healthy and carefree lives, regardless of how they identify. How important are our city’s LGBT+ venues and what impact do you think they have on overall wellbeing?

“I’ve been the manager at G Bar for 16 years now – as of February this year – and I have watched the city’s LGBT+ community change dramatically over that time. What I will say about the city’s gay venues, not just G Bar alone, is that each of them promote the right for LGBT+ people, or anyone for that matter, to be who they are and live how they want to live. 

“The venues give people a freedom of their own expression that I’m afraid still isn’t a universal quality that every bar or nightclub across the city promotes, which is why our LGBT+ venues are still a necessity. 

I saw an interesting article online the other day that stated how important it is that we preserve our LGBT+ venues, especially those hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. The article stated that most aspects of culture have their history displayed in museums. LGBT+ culture however, is implemented heavily within our nightlife as an integral part of our community and its history. This is so true.

“Not only this, but the gay community serves as a crutch for some people – as a kind of anchor, promoting better mental health and social freedoms for many people who in some ways almost rely on it. Take away our nightlife, and you take away both a symbolic and fundamental part of our community’s well being.”

Speaking of preserving LGBT+ venues, you mentioned some new exciting plans to welcome customers back?

“Yes, we do have some news plans – one of which I am very excited about. We have decided to integrate food into our outside operation in the near future. With Castle Street being our neighbour, we’re noticing that a lot of people are preferring the option of food along with drink, so we’ve decided to give it a go. We’re not talking simple, fast-food either. I kind of want whatever we serve from an independent food vendor, to be something people are going to want to eat. So watch this space!”

And looking further ahead – what about when you can reopen as a nightclub venue?

As soon as we have the green light to open I am planning the biggest opening party you could imagine. It won’t just be inside the venue either. We’ll be making it an event to remember, put it that way!

Find out more about G Bar’s upcoming events, including its Eberle Street Socials and the Sunday Quiz on Facebook, Instagram or at www.g-bar.com


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