What’s the story?
What isn't the story? Whole books have been written about the hostelry standing at 2-4 Egerton Street.
It was Mary Bowman who, in 1854, eventually got the run of no 2, the residence at the end of a row of artisans' and seafarers' houses.
Mary had knocked about a bit. Having run an alehouse in the scuzzy slums of Shaw's Brow (later William Brown Street), she suddenly found herself at the heart of high-class Liverpool, and thus The Liver Inn, was born.
Then in 1897, young Irishman Peter Kavanagh (24) got hold of it and gave it some serious love, turning it into the historically fascinating pub standing now.
He commissioned the ornate wooden carvings, the Eric Robertson murals on the walls in the back and front rooms (1929), the ornate tiling on the exterior and perhaps (no one can tell us for sure) much of the curio bric a brac that dangles from the ceilings and walls in the original right hand side.
Moreover, he ran it for an astonishing 53 years. In his afternoons off, he became a city councillor, benefactor, inventor (Hull tram car seats) and floral artist of note, yes, floral artist of note.
You think it's all over?
Shedloads happened to the pub in that period, but if you thought that after Kavanagh's death in 1950, things would go quiet, then you were wrong. In the 1970s, the Meakins arrived.
Guilda and John Meakin were two of the biggest characters in living, addled memory on the Liverpool drinking scene. Full story next time (prepare for a visit, Wapping pub), but suffice to say their influence on what was now called The Grapes was dramatic. Showman “Admiral” Meakin pushed the premises through to No 4 Egerton Street, not to mention the boundaries in many things else, and they renamed the pub in honour of Kildare-born Kavanagh. That's the way it has stayed, Peter Kavanagh's. PK's to the trendy.
Who goes there?
This is the pub for everyman, says today's redoubtable landlady Rita Smith who is celebrating 20 years there this very weekend.
The rich, the poor, the professionals, the wastrels, the students, the wastrel students – and all religious denominations and things inbetween rub shoulders at the L8 gem which has survived the Blitz and was at the heart of the 1981 riots when the nearby Rialto was torched.
On our visit, we saw Muslims at prayer (pictured), doctors and nurses from the nearby Women's Hospital. Not to mention yuppies, off-duty policemen and people of great intelligence. “And all colours,” says Rita. “I think of it like a rainbow, and this is the pot of gold at the end.”
Ray Davies spent New Year's Eve in here, and Quentin Tarantino has been in for a pint: “When are you going to make some nice films?” Rita asked him.
His response is unknown.
Ian Broudie owes
his life To RitaThe late Adrian Henri, a regular, turned up one time with Alex “Hurricane” Higgins on what might have been the biggest grossing night on the tills in PK's long history. The pair probably still discuss it in snooker/poetry Heaven.
And... “We had that fella in from the Lightning Seeds a while back,” Rita recalls. “Ian, isn't it?
“I said, 'Do you remember me?' He goes, 'Oh yeah.'
“Too bloody right," she chortles. "I rescued him and his mates from a house fire on Hope Street in the 70s."
“They were living a couple of doors down. Opposite the art college. I just saw this huge terrible glow, when I was going past... I had to do something so I started battering the door down.”
Anyway, why go to Peter Kavanagh's?
Because it is one of the very few very characterful pubs left in Liverpool. Yet despite the assertion that this is the pub for “everyman”, not everyone is going to get it. You like sitting with the WAGs in Alma de Cuba? This place will go straight over your head.
What’s the crack?
The décor, the history, the cosmopolitan clientele are all reasons to go, but you will never come away without a tale for the next day.
Liverpool Confidential writer Tony Schumacher recalls: “I was in there meeting a mate, we were having a pint at the bar when an old bloke walked in, ordered a bitter and whilst waiting for it went fishing in his pockets and pulled out some cigarettes and a lighter.
'Eh! You can't fucking smoke in here!' cried the barman.
'Oh sorry I forgot!' said the old bloke pinching the cigarette end.
“The barman looked at us and muttered 'Every fucking night,' shook his head and walked off.”
The multiple Camra-award winning boozer offers four guest cask ales changing ever week and the ever present Abbot's Ale is a mainstay, all going for £2.95 a pot. Lagers (Fosters, Carlsberg and Export) a couple of bob more. Ditto the Guinness and cider. Doubles bar weighs in at £2.70.
You can stay that way. The Sunday breakfasts are a thing of the past, sadly. So it's just crisps, Big D and a scratch of the pork.
But there's a reason. Rita likes punters to be able to come in with their dogs. Actually, maybe the wagarati might enjoy it after all.
Fancy a fag?
Out in the street with you! Unless you bump into PK stalwart, professional smoker and pub poster artist Bernie Carroll (right, left) who will tell you all about Holland and how it has just rescinded the smoking ban in pubs because, guess what, it was destroying the industry.
The quiz on Thursday is one of the best known in the city – run with an iron hand by the lovely Rita. At 72, she can still kick a cheeky punter into touch and leave them running and whimpering for their life, as she did on our visit last week.
Oh, and there are spiritual happenings. An L8 Ghost Walk starts from PK's with all proceeds to the Freshfield Animal Centre. But there are plenty of characters at the bar to spook you if you miss it. Not to mention the odd animal.
Think strength of character. As pubs tumble and fall, Peter Kavanagh's at 160 years old, will never, ever be history.
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