A palace and a ‘proper bar’: I’m proud of our Urban Splash roots
Urban Splash will soon be 30 years old, and this week, two articles have focused on some of the places at the root of the business – the Liverpool Palace and Baa Bar, both innovative ventures created by our co-founders Tom and Jonathan. Here, Tom talks about the early days of the business.
The Liverpool Echo has taken me down memory lane twice in recent weeks, with two interesting articles which look at some of mine and Jonathan’s early ventures.
Liverpool Palace – subject of this article (https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/nostalgia/alternative-shopping-arcade-kick-started-23454049) – was a place that I created on Slater Street back in the early 90s in the hope of building on my success with Afflecks Arcade in Manchester.
We transformed the lower three storeys of space, creating areas that would allow start-ups to base themselves in the city – young retailers who would rent stalls, or micro businesses who would rent micro-offices.
We were wide eyed and perhaps slightly naïve when we took on the transformation of the space – not knowing what I was doing.
Looking back though probably the naivety was an advantage that allowed us to make unshackled decisions, driven solely by a genuine passion to start creating great places – and that’s what Liverpool Palace became.
We’d soon attracted the likeminded, creative start-ups we wanted here and just a few years in 90 businesses operated out of Liverpool Palace; fashion brands like Resurrection and Red or Dead; record labels, Probe records, Cream nightclub; bands like The Farm, The La’s & Oceanic graphic designers, furniture designers, trendy cafes and other businesses who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to operate from the centre of town. Making designs, clothes, ideas and even number 1 chart records .
Just around the corner from Liverpool Palace we were part of a team that created what has been called ‘Liverpool’s first proper bar’ BaaBar (https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/nostalgia/liverpools-trailblazing-first-proper-bar-23361257) – the first in the city to be granted a 2am alcohol licence. Initially conceived as a canteen for the Palace.
Baa Bar always received lots of attention thanks to unconventional aesthetics – like a bar made from a single Iron Girder; we were the first venue that went for such bold industrial raw designs, as well as our £1 beers and colourful £1 shot list – they’re things that a lot of people remember (or don’t!).
In this nostalgic take on Baa Bar, the Liverpool Echo suggested it “changed Liverpool’s nightlife forever” setting a new precedent and standard for revellers. It was a success and there were soon nine Baa Bar’s in cities around England.
Both ventures had the hallmarks of what is now Urban Splash, each breaking convention, with bold designs that were new and different; Liverpool Palace was about establishing a great new community and making it accessible to all, while Baa Bar introduced a new way of doing things into the F&B sector.
All of that’s still present in what we do as a business today – creating new neighbourhoods with mixed tenure homes and flexible workspaces that accommodate all kinds of businesses – big and small, old and new.
Everything we do is still about pushing design boundaries and I’m proud when I’m reminded of the roots of our businesses. I might even have one of those Baa Bar shots to celebrate..!
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