Goodbye to the “The Living Room” – great times & ideas!
Updated: Oct 25, 2019
20 years since it first opened its doors, The Living Room Bar & Restaurant in Deansgate, Manchester has closed its doors.
Whilst the chain opened more sites across the UK and was owned/operated by a couple of companies during that period; its time has come and the first (and last) Living Room soon will become a “Be At One” - a brand also owned by Stonegate Pub Company.
It was pioneering in its time – bringing glamour and unique touches that had people (and their competitors) clamouring for more.
Here’s my happy memories – from Posh & Becks, personal spirits lockers above the bar, “flies” in the urinals and a very amusing encounter with Michael Flatley in Birmingham.
HELLO POSH & BECKS – The birth of “celebrity haunts” outside London.
The first time I ever really knew about The Living Room was when David & Victoria Beckham were first “papped” leaving the Deansgate location in 2001.
The story and the press coverage featured in every national paper and whilst already was popular with footballers and the like, this coverage was PR gold for the location – without them ever needing to give a hint of who visited them.
Whilst famous London restaurants & bars have always had a ‘celebrity’ status – to see this in Manchester certainly put it on the map.
SPIRIT BOTTLE “LOCKERS” ON THE BACK BAR – and the birth of bottle serve spirits.
Whilst I don’t know anyone who did utilise these, the drama element of seeing them above the back bar led to a considerable amount of interest.
The Living Room wasn’t just pioneering in promoting “by the bottle” spirits bottles, but also allured to the idea of buying a bottle and if you don’t drink it all (unlikely) that you could leave it safe for your next visit.
FLIES IN THE URINALS – certainly a talking / aiming point
Whilst it’s not exactly a glamourous subject, there’s a common problem with men “missing the pan” – There’s plenty of options these days with ‘urinal’ mats these days, The Living Room (W1) came up with the unique solution of coming up with a “focus” for men focusing on their mission.
There’s no scientific results in whether these succeeded in ‘spashbacks’, but the uniqueness at the time was certainly one that was talked about.
“BLACK & WHITE” MENUS – it’s what you see in Wetherspoon every day!
The Living Room has to be credited (by me) for transforming the Wetherspoon menus from being full of pictures to being “Black & White” with their offer. From the drinks menus in Lloyds No.1 Bars (wanting to be different to the core brand JDW) to the first trial of Wetherspoon “no picture” menus at The Ice Wharf, Camden – it became the standard of all their menus – still seen today.
SIGNATURE “WHITE PIANOS” – something special every time
This isn’t exactly scientific, the moments I enjoyed at Deansgate, Broad Street and Heddon Street London with “impromptu” pianists and singers made me realise that experience is everything.
They didn’t directly drive sales, but they did deliver an experience that made me want to visit many more times. Whilst others such as Joe Allan’s in London have had a pianist for years, this showed the power of great ‘live’ times that built both great food, drink & service with a unique proposition that could only be explained “on the night”.
AND FINALLY - MY AMUSING NIGHT WITH MICHAEL FLATLEY
As part of my role at Wetherspoon was to visit and enjoy our competitors. The Living Room in Broad Street was above our very successful Lloyds No.1 Bar and so was a frequent choice by me and my colleagues for popping in after a few JDW & competitor visits on the busy street.
One Friday night, enjoying a visit with Regional Ops Director, Phil Boyd at the bar there was a certain ‘frisson’ caused by the person sitting behind Phil at the bar. It wasn’t clear who the person causing this was - due to him being "draped" by a beautiful woman who was being very attentive to him!
It was the moment that two ladies (slightly drunk I suspect) came out of the restaurant area on the way to the toilets – stopping to do a ‘synchonised’ Riverdance performance in front of him really did make me laugh out loud.
Turns out he had just performed at the Birmingham ICC - opposite The Living Room. Forget French & Saunders – this was comedy gold moment, without Michael and his lady friend ever batting an eyelid (in public at least!)
Good times (and great ideas!) - thank you The Living Room, it's been a blast.
by Ashley Halliday
Freelance Marketing Consultant - AshleyDoesMarketing