One of the most iconic buildings on Smithdown Road has to be The Handyman Pub. Imogen Sandbach went along to talk to the manager, Kevin McCarthur, and get the lowdown on the latest incarnation for this historic building.
YOU'RE BASED IN A VERY ICONIC BUILDING, CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT IT?
The building itself was originally a horse stables but was converted into Sefton
Picturedrome in 1911. In fact, it’s still got the projection room at the top, which one day, we would like to open up as a wee snug or something.
MOST PEOPLE WILL REMEMBER IT AS THE HANDYMANS SUPERMARKET, WHICH IT HAD BEEN FOR 48 YEARS BEFORE WE TOOK OVER.
This idea to open it as a pub came from a collaboration between myself and Architectural Emporium who have carried out a lot of projects around Liverpool. They knew I’d run Kelly’s Dispensary on Smithdown Road and they approached me to work on this project. The building could easily have ended up as flats, but fortunately, we sat down and put some plans together for this pub.
WAS KEEPING THE BUILDINGS HISTORY WITHIN YOUR BRANDING IMPORTANT TO YOU?
The architects came up with the idea, but as you can see on the labels, we’ve incorporated a measuring tape into our branding to keep the idea of the handyman alive, because the shop was here 48 years and that’s what everyone remembers. So, we definitely wanted to give a nod to that in our branding.
IT MUST BE A GREAT VENUE FOR LIVE MUSIC.
The amount of space is unbelievable. We actually used the entire space for the first live event, which had a capacity for 350 people, but that was a for a pop-up event, and we knew that wouldn’t work in the long term. Eventually we had the idea to split the space
THE FRONT ROOM IS FOR NICE CASUAL DRINKING AND THE BACKROOM HAS A CAPACITY OF 130 PEOPLE FOR LIVE MUSIC.
Photo: Gary McCullagh - Ekiboo Photography
THAT SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING THAT REALLY WORKS FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS.
Definitely. Both sets of customers appreciate that. Lots of people love live music but other people just want to come for a pint. If you're getting a band blasting away in the background and you
just want to enjoy your pint, that’s not going to work for you. But now you can enjoy the music in the back or sit down in the front area and it's still peaceful.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR GINS AND CRAFT ALES.
When we were coming up with ideas for the place, we had a call from some mutual friends who were brewers, and they were looking for a place for their brewery. That’s when we came up with the idea of having the brew kit above the bar. It’s quite a tourist attraction. We started with an IPA and then decided because it was the Handyman Supermarket we’d just keep the name and that’s basically how we developed Handyman IPA.
We’ve now got 12 different beers, and three gins, again called Handyman. We’ve developed an orange gin, named Navy Strength and a wonderful artisan gin, with a smoky feel called Oak Rested that really sums this place up.
WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE IN THE PIPELINE?
I’d like to expand across Liverpool, especially with the gin. My personal aim, once everywhere opens up again, is to start looking for venues in Liverpool and then to move across the Northwest and eventually to become a national brand. I’m also aiming to start hosting gin events and beer festivals.
ARE YOU LOOKING TO COLLABORATE WITH OTHER BUSINESSES?
Definitely. And we'll be collaborating with other breweries and buyers so they can have their own design and brew their drinks here. We’re also looking to collaborate with bands.
FANS WILL BE ABLE TO DOWNLOAD A BARCODE, WATCH THE MUSIC AND USE THE BARCODE TO ORDER THE DRINKS THAT GO WITH THE MUSIC.
HOW CAN MUSICIANS COLLABORATE WITH YOU?
Get in touch and we’ll organise a tasting session. We’ll listen to their music and we’ll work out the beer that goes best with their music. If it's a nice, happy melody, you might do an IPA but if it’s a darker sound, you’d want something that reflects that depth. But it would be down to what the band like, taste-wise as well. And then they can also do part of a video or a photo shoot here and then a performance as well.
SO, YOU'RE CREATING A WHOLE EXPERIENCE.
Definitely, we want to provide people with a great all-round experience and something totally unique. That’s what I want the Handyman Bar and Brewery to be known for.