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Bar Essentials: The White Star

Confidential's lowdown on pubs we have felt it necessary to visit this week...

Published on September 20th 2010.

Bar Essentials: The White Star

What's the story?
Sitting firmly at the centre of one of the most consistently interesting areas of the city, The White Star is a free house which, for the past 20-ish years, has been run lovingly by Alfie and Karen. And while cigarettes, whisky, wild, wild women and one time next-door neighbour Pete Burns, in Probe Records, may have come and gone, the White Star is still in ship shape.

A programme from the Empire Theatre dated 1887 features an advertisement for the White Star Carvery and bar. The pub was almost the same as it is now, apart from where the telephone is, there used to be a dumb waiter. Where the gents is, was the back yard. Upstairs where the ladies toilets are, used to be the living accommodation.

Interestingly, there were no ladies toilets in the White Star until about 1987 because this was one of the few pubs left in the city that did not allow ladies in on their own due to the numbers of prostitutes that worked in the city from the end of the Second World War until, they say, the early 1990s.

Just after the war a chap called Mr Quinn bought about five pubs in the city, he never changed the names, but on all the front windows he had etched “Quinns”. Since then real ale drinkers in Liverpool and even The Good Beer Guide have apparently called it The White Star (Quinns 2).

Are you going to mention the Beatles at any point?
Oh.... go on then. The back room of the White Star was apparently used by former Cavern DJ Bob Wooler to pay all the club's groups, including You Know Who. Where the Beatles wall is in the back room, is where they were paid.

There are also a number of brass plaques on the front wall: one to the Beatles, one commemorating the twinning with a Czech White Star. Others mark the twinning with pubs in Norway. One with the Mets Sports Bar in Skien, and one with The Fat Lady in, er, Grimstead.

Who goes there?
Citizens of the world, tourists, office workers, building site labourers, young PR and lawyer types, Allan Williams....

What, The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away?
Yes'm. Anyone sensitive to dog whistles and familiar with Mathew Street knows that the slight Welsh former manager of the Fabs is never far away. The White Star is a A-WI hotspot, where Allan, for whom there is a lot of genuine affection, holds court with the Japanese and American tourists, keeping it real.

Actually, to be precise, he holds court in one hand and he holds a glass of merlot in the other. Always with three ice cubes, “exactly three cubes”.

What's the crack?
While other pubs in the vicinity put bouncers on the door and will not tolerate boisterous behaviour, Allan, quite rightly, is always welcome.

Occasionally, just occasionally, there is banter and machismo too. Early Friday evening is the best time to watch the sport of kings as chaps let off the steam of the week by engaging others in thumb wrestling, friendly headlocks and

cheery tossing of one another over their shoulders (Confidential really did witness this spectacle twice last year, although perhaps we are getting mixed up with Town Hall council meetings).

But really, the crack is the people watching, decent beer and the fact that this is now the only watering hole in a very busy tourist/nightlife patch which retains a semblance of normality. Think about it.

What's yours?
The Bowland Brewery is situated close to the exact geographical centre of the United Kingdom in the Forest of Bowland. So perhaps fitting, then, that it should supply beer to The White Star, a pub which sits a tiny spit away from an auspicious point where all the ley lines of the world are said to meet. Oh yes.

Of course, the brewery does not feed the pumps of Nicky Nook, Pheasant Plucker, Bowland Gold and, of course White Star IPA, directly. Beer lines unfortunately do not flow in tributaries from deepest Lancashire, down the M6 and Edge Lane and into Rainford Gardens, but it's a thought.

I don't do beer.
The White Star does anonymous singles and anonymous doubles, but this is no copping-off venue. Rather we we refer to the generic spirits: £1.70 for a house double, which will certainly get you there after a while. Branded spirits are £2.65 for a large one, while there is just one single malt, a bottle of Isle of Jura.

Wine, the stuff that Allan drinks, comes in small bottles only. Although Aussie White flows from a more respectable receptacle, a gallon-sized optic that is regularly replenished. Those starting their evening and looking for a livener, often pop into the White Star early doors to order a “Jagerbull”, which is a “cocktail” of Jagermeister and Red Bull, before dancing off into the Mathew Street night and the Royal later on.

There's a fruit machine, and the walls are covered in interesting posters and pics of Liverpool's history on land and at sea, with a whole wall dedicated to boxing greats.

But who needs karaoke, bands, bingo, when you can meet people from all over the shop sticking their heads around the door for the first time. You will always learn something you didn't know from complete strangers, and you can even play “Liverpool ambassador”, that game for two or more which involves disabusing the passing (Brit) trade of notions that the city they are visiting is all Militant, hubcaps, GBH and, er...You Know Who.

If you find yourself all at sea in the Mathew Street area, The White Star is the only way to travel (that's enough maritime-related wordplay, ed)

The White Star
2-4 Rainford Gardens
L2 6PT
Tel: 0151 231 6861

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34 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Under MilkwoodJune 12th 2009.

Flanagans isn't a proper pub, I'm afraid. It only does extra cold guinness, no decent beer, and it plays irritating music, both piped and from one-man wired-up busking acts in the corner which render any attempt at conversation meaningless.

BeatlesGuruJune 12th 2009.

The good old White Star long may it continue in the same form and appearance, together with the other Beatles pub the Grapes.I hope the White Star is still serving Cains bitter, hopefully increasing the Cains range.I hope too that the Grapes as started serving Cains again. As it I was very disappointed last August when I found that the Grapes were no longer serving Cains bitter. I particularly enjoy Cains Formidable Ale.

DigJune 12th 2009.

Have you ever been to The Mathew Street festival? Mathew Street is rubbish. The festival isn't. It has grown & evolved beyond the confines of Mathew Street and is now a city wide, world famous institution. It's 1 of 2 events which Liverpool hosts annually that attracts 1000's of visitors from around the world.

DigJune 12th 2009.

The Stinking Hole? That's a fantastic name for a pub, or cheese.

yello birdyJune 12th 2009.

The libdems were essential to maintaining political order in Liverpool. Dont forget, the communist lefties under Hatton nearly destroyed the city with mad schemes and bankrupting stupidity. The libdems management style of rule changed all that.Hate them now but history will show they saved Liverpool from being more than just the dumping ground for immigrants and prisons.

DigJune 12th 2009.

Downstairs with a live band on used to be a good night. Not sure what it's like these days. Heebiejeebies is great for live music. Sunday night was fantastic. Great atmosphere.

Double 07June 12th 2009.

I suspect I know exactly who one or two of you are on here, and you have got a bit of a nerve talking about ANYBODY being unsteady on their feet.

RudJune 12th 2009.

The White Star is all right I suppose, and you are correct in that it is now the only normal pub in that area. It is a tragedy what had been done to The Grapes in Mathew Street. last time I was in there the new upholstery smelled of freshly wiped vomit. I won't be going back.

JarvisJune 12th 2009.

We all need socks, right?

Drew PeacockJune 12th 2009.

Rusty's big rant - WELL SAID!Rusty's rose-tined defence of Falanagan's Apple - rubbish! It's always been a dark, grimy dump where the deformed go to cop off.

E. RectionJune 12th 2009.

He was definitely barred from there for years. His name was painted over the door to the ladies' toilet.

Drain ManJune 12th 2009.

If Mathew Street is rubbish, and it has been since the Armadillo closed down, can anyone remember why there was all that song and dance when the river of puke festl was cancelled?

EditorialJune 12th 2009.

Allan is certainly not barred from The White Star, at least he wasn't last night, but is welcomed by its owners and by the tourists he regularly entertains.

Keith FordyceJune 12th 2009.

Mathew Street-Button Street went downhill when The Collector's Centre and Probe Records were booted out in the 1980s.

Aunt TwackyJune 12th 2009.

I find the current rather soulless Mathew Street quite Bazaar...

DigJune 12th 2009.

I too am a fan of Cains. I find The Brewery Tap the best for Cains ales funnily enough. As for Allan, doesn't he frequent The Jac more often now?

Rusty SpikeJune 12th 2009.

With respect, Mrs Editor, I think your underestimate Mr Allan Williams and his capacities; he will - and does still - drink anything, not just white wine....ahem. And fair play to the man - he's a living legend in 'his own write'.....as Lennon might have intoned affectionately if these two fiery characters hadn't had a bust up over fees....etc.....And I'm not sure if Allan is still barred from the White Star. He has the enviable reputation of having been barred from most - if not all - city centre boozers at some point in his life, the old rogue.

Rusty SpikeJune 12th 2009.

Now, one hears that Julian Lennon is banging around doing stuff that his dad would be proud of....something to do with a white feather which apparently his pops said he would try and send him from beyond the grave as a message....we are in twaddle land again. Wasn't a white feather to do with cowardice? Isn't it white pigeons - or doves as the Italians fondly dub them - that represent peace? Can we be told once and for all....feathers or doves, or perhaps feathers of doves...Hey, and another new pub name....The Feathers of Doves.....

DigJune 12th 2009.

I was just saying is all. Mathew Street is rubbish. Maybe when the new 'Beatles Quarter' is finished all the scallies might leave Mathew Street to a more decent clientele. I don't agree you're never more than a foot away from a rat. You're never more than a foot away from somebody telling you you're never more than a foot away from a rat though.

S. AnnemJune 12th 2009.

I like getting the canes too, Dig

Rusty SpikeJune 12th 2009.

Well, that’s that then - the cake shop has surely finally been invaded by the gourmands and the chocoholics. It appears that those buried from their ankles to their earlobes in ‘blasts from the past’ as they wallow in Beatles nostalgia are not content with a major Beatles attraction at the Albert Dock, the – ahem – Cavern Quarter featuring noble institutions like The Grapes, Abbey Road and Allan Williams, oh and an imitation Cavern Club etc, along with a Beatles theme at the new ferry terminal at the Pierhead…aghh and the horror of the annual summer Mathew Street musical beer and vomit fest that includes a Beatles memorabilia overkill, usually at the Adelphi (where else would one pack in the Rubber Soul anoraks), the Hard Days Night Hotel and, oh whatever other stuff is knocking around such as the ludicrous Beatles Day at the Summer Pops with celebs like Ricky Tomlinson wearing Beatles wigs…bloody Beatles wigs! What ingénue dreamed up that idiocy? Now we have…roll up, roll up, roll up for the Mystery Tour….some clots are planning to ‘rebrand’ (what a noxious term) parts of Allerton and Mossley Hill as a…wait for it….The Beatles Quarter with a sparkling new Penny Lane District at its core. May Wodin – that wise old Viking god but who was quite handy with a double handed axe, it seems - weep while waiting to greet Abba with mead and banquets. A Mr Luke Traynor in the Daily Post today (June 16) has penned a few words on this nonsense and sadly run full pelt into cliché lane – never mind Penny Lane - with his description of Smithdown Place, Allerton Road, Rose Lane and Penny Lane as a new Fab Four Zone. A Fab Four Zone. Rolls off the tongue, eh. Sounds like a hi-tech business park in Bootle. Seems Warren ‘Biggles’ Bradley and his politico pumpkin pals figure that by turning the area into a ‘Bohemian-style’ tourist attraction more Fab Four fans will spend longer in south Liverpool. Well, Biggles, old son, for starters it would be like paddling a canoe a bend too far up the Orinoco when describing one of the two remaining Mop Tops, a certain Mr Ringo Starr, as ‘Bohemian’…démodé perhaps or déclassé is better. Was it John Lennon who sang Help? And didn’t all the lads wail Let It Be? I'm going to stow away on the next cruise ship to arrive at the landing stage. But, hey, don't get me kicking off on the farce of the cruise terminal...

DigJune 12th 2009.

I think Flanaghans is still a proper pub as well. The Grapes is a disgrace and it's a shame that the upstairs of The Lennon bar is now a chippy too. Although I don't go to Mathew Street any more. I'm a grown up now.

I GotwoodJune 12th 2009.

He'd better be careful he doesn't fall down all those steep stairs - he never seems that steady on his feet.

Rusty SpikeJune 12th 2009.

Draw your sword Under Milkwood, or rather is that Milksop? I will not hear a word said against Flanagans. I lost eight years of my life there, in the downstairs bar. Saturday afternoons were, how shall I say, like being part of the Aboriginal dream world. Great bands and corking chatter...In fact when my sentence ended it came as a surprise to find that the sun actually shone on a Saturday afternoon in the outside world. Oh, the lament for tumblers of Tulamore Dew.....and weeping buckets to the refrains of Athenry, the proper one, and the Rose of Allendale....Bladdered and blethered....in fact that could be a new name for Flanagans.

AyCarmela!June 12th 2009.

The Grapes is indeed a stinking hole. It's all a bit sad really, it used to be an interesting little pub.

London RoadJune 12th 2009.

What's Heebiejeebies got to do with it? Have you been out in the sun, Dig? This is about Mathew Street. Pool of life, never more than a foot away from a rat and all that.

tAG hEURJune 12th 2009.

A word to the wise; Thursday afternoon is the day to enjoy/avoid depending on your tastes. It has become the best kept secret amongst the local gay community over the last 2 years.Wear a red hankie in your left trouser pocket. NO EARRINGS.

IanJune 12th 2009.

I guarantee that if you spend at least an hour in there a man will come round and try and sell you some socks.

AnonymousJune 12th 2009.

Double 07 - DO YOU KNOW WHO THE F**K I AM?

Ivor WoodcockJune 12th 2009.

I used to like the White Star when all this Beatles bollocks was simple, understated fact and not all this sensationalist trumpeting to attract hordes of the gormless. The possiblity of encountering that unpleasant, foul-mouthed, narcissistic gnome Williams repeatedly bellowing "DO YOU KNOW WHO THE F*CK I AM?" again has quite put me off the idea of ever going in there again.

Stanley StreetJune 12th 2009.

Drain man - it was mainly because our clownish, incompetent, kiss-of-death, Lib-Dem Council finally broke the camel's back by managing to scupper a festival that had been happily organising and financing itself for many years. That this happened in the Capital of Culture Year (or was it Liverpool's 800th birhtday?) amply illustrated what bare-faced butter-fingered blithering idiots we have in charge. The cover-up afterwards showed they were liars as well.(I hate this 'festival' of piss and puke too; I always leave town for the weekend.)

PevsnerJune 12th 2009.

Yello Birdy - yes they will be remembered, if only for the large numbers of well-loved eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings (some of them listed by English Heritage) that were destroyed whilst entrusted to their care. And of course all those ugly blocks of flats disfiguring our once-admired, famous skyline and endangering the status of the World Heritage site around the Pier Head.

AnonymousJune 12th 2009.

Euuuuugh! Pass the sick bag Mr Wooler!

Double 07June 12th 2009.


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