£6m 'world class dining' plan abandoned. Signature Living ready to fill the gap

A £6m project to turn Liverpool’s famous Cunard Building into a “world class dining experience” has been abandoned.

Living Ventures, the Northwich-based leisure and restaurant group, had planned to bring two different upmarket restaurants to the Cunard Building: Australasia, which has enjoyed success in Manchester, and Cunard House, led by Liverpool-born Aiden Byrne, the youngest chef to ever win a Michelin Star.

A training academy was also announced in the June 2015 deal, creating 150 jobs in total over the ground and first floor of the Grade II listed buiding.

The company, whose co-founder Tim Bacon died after a 12 month cancer battle last April, has confirmed to Liverpool Confidential that it has dropped its plans for the waterfront landmark. It gave no reason for the decision.

“The next Australasia opening is planned for London and then we are looking at Edinburgh. We have just last week opened Grand Pacific in Manchester and we are considering opportunities in other cities, including Liverpool, for this concept which is part of the Australasia stable,” said a spokeswoman for the company.

Liverpool City Council, which now owns the Cunard Building and has relocated its headquarters there, is seeking an alternative operator. 

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After the success of Manchester, the next Australasia will be in London and then all eyes will be on Edinburgh
Sealing the deal in July 2015: Late Living Ventures CEO Tim Bacon, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, Lord Carlile CBE QC, chairman of Astutus Strategy, and Astutus Director John Hyland

But already Signature Living, the company that transformed another shipping office the White Star Building, into a hotel, has said it wants the ground floor space.

It proposes a trendy wedding venue and "Michelin-standard restaurant" and has already produced images of its ideas for the period location (below), claiming it is very close to sealing a deal.

Liverpool City Council has rented out part of the space to the British Music Experience which opened earlier this month and is backed by the Belfast-based Harwood Consortium which owns the Titanic Hotel and Tobacco Warehouse.

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Above and below, Signature Living's alternative vision for the Cunard Building
20170329 Signature Living Cunard 2

Just 18 months ago Mayor Joe Anderson expressed his delight at the announcement that the acclaimed Living Ventures group, whose involvement in Liverpool began with Life Cafe and Living Room venues, would be embarking on the Three Graces enterprise.

“It will provide a world class dining experience for residents, tourists and office workers in this part of the city and be a catalyst for further investment in the Pier Head area,” he said.

Both venues were set to open in 2016 but Liverpool City Council stayed tight lipped when asked, last autumn, for an ETA, saying discussions were still "ongoing".

This week a spokesman was more forthcoming: “We are currently seeking another operator for the Cunard Building space.”