Founder of Love Lane talks beer, the Baltic and being seen as the ‘big boys’
The Love Lane story, like all great ones, has been an adventure full of ups and downs, good times and bad. But the one constant has been the love of great beer and a passion to help people enjoy it over a conversation with friends and family.
All areas of Liverpool have to work together to create a tourist destination
Residential developments in the Baltic have seen a boom in ‘locals’ coming in for a bevvie. As the world has opened back up, the venue on Bridgewater Street has also been inundated with event enquiries. That rise in demand has caused a problem, because a big group booking means the whole venue has to close to the regulars.
“It's been shite in hospitality for the last 20 months,” says Love Lane founder and chief executive, Stephen Crawley.
“We’ve also been surrounded by roadworks, one way streets. It’s been start, stop, start, stop. We've survived lockdown, but then you start looking at where you are now, what you want to do next.”
The next chapter for Love Lane is raising £80,000 to fund the conversion of the top floor into an event space with two multi-use rooms, converting the existing office and tasting room, so the venue can take bookings for events and stay open downstairs for the community.
To do that, Love Lane has launched a Crowdfunder with a collection of rewards to suit every budget.
“The challenge is obviously that we're tight on cash because we’ve had virtually no income for the last 20 months,” says Stephen.
“The idea of crowdfunding is not equity based. It's purely you give us something, we give you a really good deal back.
"Whether it's a Christmas party for three grand but you’re only paying two, a wedding for 15 grand, you're paying 10. And who wouldn’t want eight pints or six gin and tonics for 30 quid?”
From humble home brewing beginnings in 2010 to a railway arch on Love Lane, Liverpool. The beer flew out and the demand pushed for a new home in the heart of Liverpool's Baltic Triangle.
The lease was signed and they converted an old rubber warehouse into a vision for Love Lane, with a new brewery, distillery and a bar that could accommodate large events.
Stephen has been brewing since 1988 and came to Liverpool in 2016 with a vision to return commercial brewing to the city and build a brewery within sight of the Mersey that could easily be East or West Coast America.
Stephen says that it’s been great to see the urban craft beer industry grow in Liverpool.
“It's fantastic that these other people have come in, because ultimately that's the way you grow a market. You automatically then face this ridiculous dilemma that happens in craft, where all of a sudden, we’re seen as the big boys. So, we've had a couple of places recently that have said, ‘we won't stock you because you're too big.’
“How do you define big? I guess we’re bigger than when we started with a bucket. And we've got reasonably big ambitions but we've certainly focused back on the Liverpool City Region with the pandemic."
The Baltic Triangle has grown from an industrial area populated by dilapidated buildings to one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the UK. There have been some negative impacts of “gentrification” (rising rents and property prices) but overall, Stephen thinks the balance in the Baltic is actually quite good.
“I think gentrification - you can fight it - but it’s always going to happen, because ultimately landlords want more of a return,” he says.
“Liverpool needs a vibrant tourist economy because Liverpool does not have a commercial centre the same way as Manchester or Leeds or Birmingham does. Tourism and that variety is really, really important, but so is quality.
“What we tried to do with this building was to make a statement for Liverpool, a statement for the Baltic Triangle. When we took over this building, a lot of the high rise buildings around here just weren’t here.
“The inevitable property market pressure will always win. I think you can do certain things to legislate but ultimately it's very hard to stop that. I think what is good for me is that there is evidence of more employment.
“I think all areas of Liverpool have to work together to create a tourist destination. The city needs money to fund tourism. It needs a strong ACC, it needs events, it needs football, definitely.
“The Baltic Triangle has still got a long way to go. I'm not going to try and predict what happens but ultimately, jobs are really, really important and upstairs here will also create some extra jobs.”
Stephen is keen for Love Lane to take its next step in partnership with the local community and says that the upstairs space will also accommodate free hire to local groups - that could be the best band you've never heard of (yet) looking to rehearse or a yoga group who needs a new home.
For more information on the events spaces available at Love Lane Brewing, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
To pledge on the Crowdfunder, visit the Love Lane page.
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