THE smiles say it all.
Liverpool Confidential can today confirm that the Caledonia Pub will remain open, after a deal was struck between its new owners and its landlady, which will allow her to stay behind the bar indefinitely.
Last month Confidential revealed how shocked Laura King, who runs the popular Catharine Street pub, was given just 28 days to pack her bags and leave her home and business – after owners Admiral Taverns sold the lease with vacant possession for “an offer they couldn't refuse”.
The pub, which has operated continuously as a licensed premises since 1838, has found vibrant new life as a music venue since 28-year-old Laura took it over in 2010. It was shortlisted for live music venue of the year at the inaugural Liverpool Music Awards last November.
The Caledonia lies at the heart of an area densely populated by students and there was widespread belief that it would be developed into more rented accommodation.
News of its closure sparked outcry across the city. A petition to save it attracted thousands of signatures as everyone from CAMRA to Councillor Nick Small weighed in with talk of it being listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), a lengthy process.
Says Laura: “Although the support from the public was overwhelming, I spent the first week, after I was given notice to quit, going from shocked, to numb, to anxious to angry.
“I was homeless, jobless and pretty desperate . The AVC plan could take months and while it might help the pub, it wasn't going to necessarily help me.”
But then things all turned around. Admiral renegotiated the deal, to sell the lease as a going concern with the new buyers, who, Confidential understands, wish to remain nameless.
Says Laura: “When the new buyers first came in, they told me they were planning to turn the upstairs into flats and have a retail unit on the ground floor.
“I explained that I lived there, that the function room is used by everybody from the chess club to meetings of university societies and that our kitchens up there.
“They then came back and asked me if I would I be prepared to stay on, all business as usual. Except now we will be a free house.
“To say the last few weeks have been a roller-coaster is an understatement.”
She added: “For the last month we've been firming up a deal. After all that had happened I was very wary of people, and especially with all the stuff going on at Mello Mello, so it took time to sort out with lawyers."
With the ink just dry, she added: “But I couldn't be happier with the outcome. I have a contract to stay on here for five years, but there is an option to stay here indefinitely. This is my home and I will be putting everything into making it work for all of us.
“This Sunday (May 26) is our third birthday – the day I was supposed to be packing my things. We will be having the biggest party ever, to celebrate, and I want everyone who has supported us, including the councillors, including CAMRA, to come down and celebrate the future.
The Caledonia, which specialises in promoting rockabilly, folk and roots bands, had been due to play a big part in the Philharmonic Hall's Americana festival in July.
A Phil spokesman welcomed the news of the reprieve, commenting. “We are big supporters of the Caledonia pub and it's a favourite among our staff and orchestra members. We are delighted that it will be playing a part in our summer Americana event, as planned.”
A spokesman from Admiral added that they also wished Laura and the new owners the "very best of success" in their new partnership.
Of course, not everyone agrees.
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