Return of the Jac – The Jacaranda, Liverpool independents, preserving the past – and Mastodon

New life at The Jacaranda

New life at The Jacaranda

As Liverpool’s iconic bar, The Jacaranda reopens its doors, Getintothis’ Beth Parker caught up with those behind the new vision, to talk bevs, boozers, bands and prog metal.

When the Jacaranda mysteriously and swiftly shut in October 2011, it was widely presumed that, similarly to its previous hiatus, it’d only be a matter of weeks or months before it opened its blackened doors again.

Yet that wasn’t the case and only now, three years on, have we seen the historic venue re-open its doors with interest. The bar was made famous for its association with The Beatles. The band’s first manager, Allan Williams, opened the venue in 1957, which has enabled owners since to revel in the glory that the Jac was the first club to host the Fab Four, after the boys played a gig there in the summer of 1960.

Since the Jacaranda closed its doors, the music scene and night life of the city centre has altered somewhat. While we’ve seen a number of new bars open like Salt Dog Slims and Berry and Rye, our beloved Le Bateau and Mello Mello are no more. And in the wake of the announced proposed changes to Wolstenholme Square, it seems a precarious and uncertain time for Liverpool’s independent venues.

Having re-opened on November 6, we thought it was about time to have a chat to Joe Maryanji, the Jacaranda’s Marketing and Promotions main man, to see how things are going, what he makes of the city’s independents and, of course, all things Liverpool.

Getintothis: First thing’s first, what can we expect from the Jac now, what’s new and what’s changed?

JM: When we started the renovation works, it became apparent very quickly that the building really was in a bad way. Technically, the only things that are the same are the floors and the walls (for the most part) as so much restoration work had to be done to make sure it’s up to scratch with modern standards.

While it’s all essentially new, it was really important that we tried to keep the overall feel to the place the same but at the same time drag it into the 21st century! The bar and pub scene has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, as has the music industry, so we really aimed to create a space that appealed to a new fresh audience as well as the old one.

We’ve utilised the space a little better, opening up the basement to benefit live music and moved the death trap of a stair case to along the back wall. While the original Jukebox was taken out pretty much as soon as it closed, we have put in two brand new Wurlitzer Jukeboxes on the ground floor and basement which we really hope have the same charm and mystery as the old one.

Getintothis: We hear you’ve got a rehearsal room, can you tell us more about that? Where about is it in the venue and what’s going to be the availability of it? It should hopefully fill a bit of the void of Mello Mello closing and the loss of their practice space.

JM: The rehearsal room idea came about through the venue’s connection with The Beatles. The Jac’s original owner, Allan Williams, put John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe to work decorating the basement in return for them using it as a rehearsal room.

We will have 10 slots a week that are available completely for free for any bands that wants to use the basement to practice in. There is a full backline of amps, drum kit, guitars and PA down there, as well as instruments for musicians to use if they need to. The idea is that when they are ready to play a gig and we think they are, we’ll give them a show on a Friday or Saturday night.

Getintothis: The Jac has been a longstanding venue in Liverpool for decades and one close to people’s hearts. Because of this people may be nostalgic for the ‘old Jac’ and the old scene which it fitted in to. For instance, we used to love going out on a Thursday and getting a jug of Cheeky Vimto (classy, we know) in the Jac before heading down to Mixed Bag in the Barfly or before Le Bat on a Saturday. You’re obviously in a great location – right next to some of our favourite venues like the Kazimier, the Zanzibar and The Attic etc. Where do you see the Jac fitting in to the Liverpool scene now?

JM: We see the Jac fitting in the niche in-between a lot of the bars and music venues of the city. First and foremost we are all about the music so we’ve tried to execute the Jac in such a way that really benefits the bands who play there every week.

On the ground floor the feel and atmosphere is that of the old Jac mixed in with a bar with great service and even greater standard and selection of drinks. The basement is very much a live music space that goes on until the very earlier hours but it still retains a high level of bar service (as well as the odd £1.50 bottle!)

Having the different crowds of people mixing in one space, (those that are there for the music and those that are there for high quality cocktails), is a really interesting way of exposing bands to people who’ve never been to a gig in their life.

We really have got lucky with the bar team that we have in there and it’s been a real pleasure having these guys involved in the project before we opened the doors. We’ve all very much become a family here are the Jac and we hope to extend that arm to all our regulars.

The refurbed basement looking smart

The Jac’s refurbed basement

Getintothis: We mentioned Mello Mello, but since the Jac last shut it’s doors there have been quite a number of closures/forced relocations of independent venues. What are your thoughts on the value of independent venues in Liverpool and what are your plans to ensure the Jac stays around for good this time?

JM: What makes this city great is the abundance of ideas people have for their own businesses and what makes Liverpool special is the amount of people who are ready to work like a dog to make their dreams a reality.

Outside Liverpool ONE, the amount of independent businesses is fantastic, the only issue unfortunately is the competitiveness between independents, franchises and corporate chains. It’s always the little guy that comes last when money is involved and that can only change if people realise the importance of local stores run by local people.

We’re all guilty of the odd Tesco meal deal from time to time but it’s not those kind of businesses that genuinely appreciate your custom. The Jac will stay true to its musical roots and our dedication to creating a place where people really want to be is ultimately what we hope will keep people coming back week on week to check out some incredible live music.

Getintothis: Liverpool has a number of independent breweries, like Liverpool Gin and the Mad Hatter Brewing Company, will you be using any of these in the bar?

JM: Our range of world beers of course include ones from Liverpool. We have quite a few different products that Mad Hatter produce as well as Craft.

Getintothis: If you were to make or buy us a drink what would it be?

JM: First we’d make you get through the 4 Fab Four shots and have you wash it down with a Strawberry Fields!

Getintothis: Lovely, ta… You’ve been open for a little while now. Can you tell us how it’s been going?

JM: It’s been going really well. We’ve been going strength to strength each night and the feedback has been amazing. There’s inevitably been teething problems, as there is with any refurb, but for the most part it’s been really smooth. We’re all really proud of what we’ve achieved with the gaff.

Getintothis: We want to know a bit about you guys in the Jacaranda. Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and the people who are running it?

JM: Without blowing our own trumpet, we’re not a bad bunch of people! This is a difficult one to answer. I could say we’re all amazing but it’s for people that come to the Jac to decide that for themselves.

Everyone who is involved in the Jac has been around the bar industry for some time now and for the most part, we all used to be regular visitors to the Jacaranda and have more than a story or two about the gaff.

Graham and the Jac team

The Jac team: Jens Larson, Katy Louise Jones, Graham Stanley and Joe Maryani

Getintothis: Obviously, we think Liverpool is the best city in the world but what do you like about the city? Where are your favourite hangouts to for a night out, to grab some food and to chill out?

JM: Liverpool’s one of those kinda cities where no matter what you’re in the mood for there’s something going on that satisfies even the most particular of people. When it comes to bars, we’re all big fans of Mojo and Heebie Jeebies but for quieter drinks I’m a big fan of The Berry and Rye as well as The Flute. If you’re after a random gig on any night of the week, The Lomax really is the place to go.

There have been some unreal food places that have opened up in the last year in Liverpool. East Avenue Bake House, Nolita Cantina, Maray and of course the amazing Pork Chop Express. We are really spoiled for choice around the Jac with so many incredible places it’s really hard to choose.

Getintothis: What sort of music are you in to? What gigs have you been to this year and what’s been your favourite gig?

JM: If you’re asking me personally, I’m in a Heavy Metal band so my tastes (without a doubt) do not reflect the Jacaranda.

Last week I played with the iconic Prog Metal band Sikth, which was the last gig I’ve been to. People talk about musicianship and talent and I can say I’ve never seen anything like it. The whole show I think I heard a 4/4 rhythm maybe once, they really are something to be experienced.

The gig I’ve been banging on about for ages has to be Mastodon. I’ve got tickets to go and watch them in both London and Manchester in November. When my boss reads this he’ll shake his head… I think he’s listened to more Mastodon in the last six months than the most hardcore of fan!

Getintothis: Who are your favourite Liverpool bands? And what can we expect to hear in the Jac?

JM: There really are so many to choose from. Being involved in music in this city for as long as I have, I’ve had the pleasure of playing with some amazing talent. Currently the bands we down at the Jacaranda are really loving are: Badge, Jimmy and the Revolvers, Oceanis, 69 Watts, Karl Sweeney, Daniel Saleh, Broken Men, Raw City, We the Undersigned, Blind Monk, The Hummingbirds and of course The Beatles!

The Jac is going to be classic Jac music. Rock and blues spanning the ages as well as the odd anthem and gem you’ve not heard in years. For the most part, the music hasn’t really changed much, just the Jukeboxes that play them.

Getintothis: And last but not least, we’d like to play a quick game with you to test what you really think of some of Liverpool’s most acclaimed features . When I say the following words tell me the first thing that comes in to your head…

Everton Football ClubNo comment

Bold StreetHome

The BeatlesIconic

Concert SquareMental


Pete BurnsUnique!

Hollyoaks Holly-what?

We give Joe extra points for choosing Sayers over Greggs (it’s good to see he knows his bakeries). And even though you won’t be able to pick up a cheese and onion pasty or steak slice from the Jacaranda, it’s more than worth checking out for yourselves.

With a practice space and regular live music on offer, it seems that the infamous venue is returning to its 1960s roots. The availability of this free rehearsal space is much needed in the city centre and, no doubt, will be much appreciated by Liverpool’s budding musicians.

It seems Liverpool’s musicians both young and old were intrigued by the new look Jacaranda as our photographer Martin Saleh discovered when he popped in one quiet afternoon to discover Johnny Hutch of The Big Three who last graced the Jac stage back in 1959, along with Dave Jamo, roadie for Roy Storm and the Hurricanes.