Landlord Dave Hardman thinks winning the award is roar-some

It’s been a long wait, but the Lion Tavern at Moorfields can finally celebrate being named Pub of the Year 2020 by Liverpool CAMRA.

The Liverpool and District CAMRA award was announced in March last year, but due to lockdown, the branch have only now managed to present Dave Hardman, the licensee of the Lion, with his banner to display outside the pub.

We’ve got the greatest hits of Matt Monro next to the Clash. The Lion doesn’t do what everyone else does.

Dave originally worked on the bar of the Lion Tavern from 2005 until it temporarily closed in 2016. At that time, a friend asked him to go with him to a pub open day at Exchange Station. His mate didn’t turn up, Dave went anyway and ended up signing a piece of paper that made him the landlord of the Lion. Since then, his pub has picked up awards in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Lion Tavern Moorfields Camra Liverpool Dave Hardman Tithebarn Street
Lion King - the Pub of the Year banner is now proudly displayed

Dave says he is delighted with the Liverpool CAMRA award.

“I’d like to thank Old Rope Walks Ltd - our parent company - all the CAMRA members who voted for me, the brewers old and new, all my customers, and last but not least, the most important people of the lot - the bar staff," he says.

“Tonight, it's the CAMRA awards and the launch of two new beers from Liverpool Brewing Company. It’s also the start of our beer festival, showcasing the likes of Rock the Boat Brewery, Peerless Brewing, Brimstage and Wily Fox."

The Lion landlord is glad to be back serving customers at the bar, but says that some people are still nervous about busy pubs. And even without COVID-19 there are other hurdles to overcome, including the recent heatwave, which has seen a decline in pub visitors. 

Lion Tavern Moorfields Camra Liverpool Dave Hardman Tithebarn Street Real Ales Landlord
Dave Hardman, landlord of the Lion Tavern, Moorfields

“This week is pay-day, and then I’ll see what happens,” says Dave. 

“Friday, from half three to half seven is the after-work mob. I don’t know who’s back at work yet and that’s still a problem for us. So it depends how people react. People have said to me, ‘If I walk past the window and the bar’s chocka, I’ll keep on walking’.

“Obviously COVID has changed the pub landscape massively. Every licensee I've spoken to is more than aware that another lockdown will put an end to small pubs like this."

The Lion Tavern sits on the corner of Tithebarn Street and Moorfields, opposite the former Exchange Station, and is named after one of the early locomotives that worked the Liverpool to Manchester Railway.

Lion Tavern Moorfields Camra Liverpool Dave Hardman Tithebarn Street Wrights Pies Crewe
You wanna piece of me? Pies from Wrights in Crewe

On the wall of the pub is a painting by Liverpool artist, W.G. Herdman, showing the original buildings of Tithebarn Street in the mid 1800s. The pub has a long history dating back to that time and it's thought that the Lion expanded into the building next door around 1915. The corridor was then created along with the “News Room” and a lounge beneath an ornate domed skylight. 

It was refurbed in its current style before the First World War, by Robert Cain, whose carved initial is in the wall above the main bar. Another quirky feature can be seen on the front panel of the bar itself - brass plates which punters in the olden days used to strike their matches.

No Liverpool pub would be complete without a Beatles' connection and the Lion’s claim to fame is that the News Room window can be seen for five seconds in the film Yellow Submarine.

“Up until the day I took over the pub, we’d always joked that there was no Beatles' connection - and I was quite proud of that,” says Dave.

“A twee Beatles' connection. Everyone does it!”

Lion Tavern Moorfields Camra Liverpool Dave Hardman Tithebarn Street News Room Beatles Yellow Submarie
The window of the News Room can be seen in the film 'Yellow Submarine'

Matt Valentine, Pub of the Year coordinator for Liverpool and District CAMRA, said that the Lion’s intricate interior and Grade II listed status was a factor in its recognition.

“Already a perennial favourite, the Lion was recently taken over by Dave Hardman, and has gone from strength to strength under his tenure,” Matt wrote on the Liverpool CAMRA website

The Bridewell, The Dispensary, The Four Ashes and The Roscoe Head were also highly commended as Pubs of Excellence and runners-up in the awards. 

So, what does Dave think makes the Lion Tavern so special?

“101 things. It looks like a pub should look,” he says.

“One of the reasons I took this pub over, when I went to the meeting over the road, they said nobody else had looked at it and they were prepared to put a manager in from outside of Liverpool.

Lion Tavern Moorfields Camra Liverpool Dave Hardman Tithebarn Street Jukebox
Apparently, Pete Wylie likes to sing his own songs from the jukebox

"This pub is conservative with a small ‘c’. It’s got traditions, like the world-famous pies and the free jukebox. The regulars bring their own CDs in. We’ve got the greatest hits of Matt Monro next to the Clash. The Lion doesn’t do what everyone else does.”

Ah yes, those famous pies. What’s the story?

“It was John, who was the licensee before me, who had this pie and a pint,” Dave says. “We call it our all-day breakfast pie and a pint.

“We’re trying to keep all those old values. We don't sell jagerbombs, we don't sell shots, we don't sell alcopops. We might lose out on the stags and hens market, but most of our customers don't want that.” 

The Lion Tavern, 67 Moorfields, Liverpool L2 2BP

Read next: Interview: Charlie Hardiman - ‘Some of the maddest places to drink are owned by women’

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