My Pub: the Club House, Chavasse Park, Liverpool

By Claire Churchard

- Last updated on GMT

Welcome to the Club: you holiday in the Hamptons? Try drinking at the Club House instead
Welcome to the Club: you holiday in the Hamptons? Try drinking at the Club House instead
A pub designed to look like a manor in the Hamptons is certainly unique in Liverpool. General manager Leigh Edmondson reveals how the pub has brought a little bit of the American dream to the north-west

Facts ’n’ stats

Name: ​The Club House

Address: ​Chavasse Park, Liverpool One, L2 9SQ 

GM/DPS:​ Leigh Edmondson

Tenure:​ Part of the New World Trading Company estate

Wet:dry split:​ 67:33 (flexes to 70:30 in summer)

The pub

The Club House is a huge venue, with a massive outdoor space. It’s something that the rest of Liverpool and most of the north-west of England hasn’t got. It’s styled to look like a large manor house that you might see in the Hamptons in America. Its décor is inspired by the New England-style with white panelled walls and a striking interior. There’s a statement staircase as you come in and a feature chandelier that showcases beautiful glassware. It’s amazing. Then, up the top, there’s more concept lighting in the form of a classic hot air balloon. 

Indoor is about 200 covers, it’s like a split-level restaurant, and then there’s our private dining room, which is about 10 to 15 covers. We tend to get baby showers and other gatherings in there. Outside we’ve got the winter terrace, which is an ‘indoor/outdoor’ glass covered area that gives the impression of being outside. And then there’s the garden proper, which has an outside bar and kitchen. There are about 400 covers out there but it can be more.

The venue is part of the New World Trading Company (NWTC) group, which has 22 sites up and down the country under different brands.

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The general manager

I’m the GM and designated premises supervisor at the Club House. I joined the company in February 2018 and did my NWTC training at the Smugglers Cove pub, which is also in Liverpool. The training is very comprehensive – covering management, service, menu, wine, cocktails, including free pouring, I think it was 10 areas altogether – and you’re tested on every part of the training. 

I thought I couldn’t free pour but we had a great trainer for that and, after some practice, you get your eye in. Then I came to the Club House in May. 

My background is in events and hospitality more generally. I started off at the Royal Opera House in London in 2002 and I was there for about eight years working for Searcy. From there I went to the Royal Albert Hall as bars manager for about a year then I moved to be bars and restaurant manager at what was called 1802 then it changed to Rum & Sugar in Canary Wharf. Then I moved to Sadler’s Wells Theatre in Angel to be catering operations manager for two years.

After that I made the move back up north looking after the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, then I did a small stint at Wahaca for a year and a half.

I got into hospitality because I like people. If you don’t like people then there’s no point being in this industry.

The food

Our food is centred on three areas. There’s the deli, which can be light or more substantial. We’ve got some amazing salt and pepper chicken wings on at the moment. 

Then there’s the outdoor barbecue kitchen with its hanging kebabs. You don’t see that in many places. 

And, finally, the rotisserie meats. A lot of pubs don’t have the space for that but we do. It’s a USP. You can see it all prepared and slow-cooked on site throughout the morning.

There’s lots of choice but it is quite simple.

The most popular items are the hanging kebabs. My favourite is chicken. Although, on other days, it can be the deli boards and the deli chefs will be really busy or as we say ‘in the weeds’!

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The trade

It’s a stylish place to come to but it is also really welcoming. Even before I worked here, I never felt uncomfortable or intimidated by door people when coming in, or felt under or overdressed and that’s what we’ve tried to keep going.

We have loads of family coming in with their dogs. Our assistant general manager has a particular appreciation for dogs and is the first one to go out with a bowl of water for them. We also get people who have been out shopping come in for a drink and/or food.

On a Friday and Saturday night, we get people who like to get dressed up and go out, as they do everywhere – people who like to be seen. Then there are the socially media-savvy, who appreciate the selfie drinks machine, and who take pictures of everything for Instagram. 

We have people who like to come in for a drink after work and we get a lot of tourists as well. They come up from the docks and wonder what the place is. They ask us about it, they’re inquisitive.

The customer mix is brilliant. Because we’re a good-quality pub, we can cater for all of them.

The drink

On the bar at the moment we’ve got more than 80 different beers. We’ve got a big menu that pulls out if you’re at a table. We’ve got lagers, fruit pale ales, IPAs, low alcohol beers, darker beers, speciality Trappist beers and ciders. We have our in-house Tribal lager, which is brewed for and by NWTC that has just gone in at all sites. And if we want local beer, we can put a business case in to have it, then our company beer guru Lauren Soderberg will come down and taste it to check the quality and decide whether or not it will work for the site and the brand.

We’ve got about 80 different wines. And we have a gin menu with about 20 gins on there. Pink gin is very popular in Liverpool, it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be stopping. Aperol Spritz was also very popular in the summer.

Then we have house cocktails. Within the company, one of our tags is mix and match, so the bartenders will, between them, know the 100 top cocktails so we can serve them as well. There is a ‘bar blade’ standard in the company who will know the top 200 cocktails. We also do cocktail masterclasses.

Grey Goose has sponsored a ‘selfie drinks machine’ for us. It’s in The Lodge in the garden. There is a QR code for customers to scan on their phone, then they can upload a picture. Then you press a button to get the Grey Goose Espresso Martini made and the machine ‘prints’ your picture on top of the drink. We’ve got a little video of it working. Social media has gone a bit crazy for it, and it has had 97,000 views, which we were quite shocked by.

We use LWC and Liberty wines as our main drinks suppliers.

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The team

There are 63 staff. We’ve got an AGM, head chef, sous chef, bar manager, head bartender, waiting staff, bar staff. We also have in-store trainers to train people on the bar and floor.

I believe that if you’ve got a happy team, then that’s half the battle. So it’s not ignoring your kitchen porter, your server or your bar person. It might sound a bit cheesy but you need to create a family environment [within the team], because you need people to have your back when you get a day where we do £42,000 to £85,000 on a Saturday. I was lucky because I inherited a really good team and we’ve added to that over the summer.

Great people are key. I’d find it difficult to work in a company where they don’t treat the teams well. If you don’t treat people well they aren’t going to be happy. Give people boundaries, the rules to work with, but let them show off their personalities and be themselves with customers. 

I work to make sure my team is happy and I like to see them develop. There is the opportunity to move between NWTC sites, for example, when the Smugglers Cove needs people our
staff can move over there and vice versa, as well as being promoted to other sites.  

If anyone in the team has an issue, I tell them to come and speak to me and be honest, don’t hide the issue. We can always work out a way to approach it with the customer, so they are fully aware of what’s happened and are not left in the dark. We’ve had some very positive reviews because of this kind of honest, respectful approach. For me, this approach goes back to a bartender I worked with once. He opened a bottle of Dom Perignon instead of Prosecco and then hid it for a week. When I found out I asked him why he hadn’t told me and he said he was scared. I said ‘have I ever shouted? No. Have I ever had a go? No. Do you know why I’m upset? Because we could all have drunk it’.

The events

Through the summer time we have Club House Live, where we have a stage outside. The bands start playing from 1pm through to 10pm. We had four or five on through the summer. It’s great when the sun is shining. When it does rain, we move the band closer to the entrance of the site, where it’s more sheltered. 

This year, we had a record summer until August, when we had the wettest August – in Liverpool anyway. But when we did have a rain shower recently, it was a great atmosphere because everybody was dancing in the rain! It was like being on holiday when it has rained and everybody is having a great time.

We also have The Lodge, which goes up for the winter months. It has about 50 to 60 covers and room for 150 standing. It’s designed like a wood log cabin and dressed like a ski lodge.
The idea is that it is a quiet retreat for people to get away from the hustle and bustle. We’ve got a cinema in there during October, with films like The Greatest Showman​ and The Rocky Horror Picture Show​ and lots of kids’ films on during half term. Parents can buy a ticket for £5 and can bring up to two children with them. We’ve put a price on it to make sure that people who book a ticket come. 

The future

The company has just started a ‘My New World’ loyalty app. Four sites are trialling it at the moment, but it’s there to download from Android or the iStore. The idea is every time you come in you are given exclusive offers. It’s a good way to keep people in the NWTC family as it were. We’re hoping to bring it into the Club House soon.

Next year, we’ll be looking at more table waiting service outside to capitalise on the garden. I’d like to develop that and show what we can do service-wise. One of our team came from another pub that is as busy as ours and they had things like dog shows. We’d like to look at developing some quirky events ideas along these lines.     

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