The former St Peter's Church is one of Liverpool's most unusual nightspots
From Catholic church to cocktails and dancing. Alma de Cuba, the former church that was dramatically reborn to become one of the UK's most unique nightspots, has quite a backstory.
It’s so stunning like nowhere else in Liverpool and we love it, so that’s why we’re really keen to see where we can take it.”
Until its closure in 1978, St Peter’s was the oldest surviving Catholic church in Liverpool. It opened on September 7, 1788 and served as a Catholic church for 188 years until 1976, after which it served the local Polish community for a short time. For this reason it is still today affectionately referred to as "the Polish Church".
Timeline of St Peter's Church
- 1788, 7 September - St Peter’s Church opened.
- 1788, 28 September - First baptisms performed.
- 1817 - One of the earliest catholic elementary schools in the country was opened at the church.
- 1818 – The Chapel was considerably enlarged.
- 1903 – Six stained-glass windows were installed at a cost of £330.
- 1904 – The Baptistery and West end were renovated for £150.
- 1908 – The Lady Chapel was renovated for £100.
- 1920 – Electric light was installed for the first time and the church was redecorated inside. Funds for this refurbishment were raised by sources including a Grand Bazaar held in October 1920.
- 1976 – The church was transferred to the Polish Community and for a short time was known as “Our Lady of Czestochowa”.
- 1978 – The parish was closed.
21st century ambitions
Alma became a symbol of Liverpool's 21st century ambitions when St Peter's Church was transformed by R2 Architecture under Tom Bloxham's visionary Urban Splash. It opened in 2005 as a bar/restaurant, the first church in Liverpool to undergo such a rebirth, with entrepreneur Rob Gutmann at the helm. With the downturn in the fortunes of his Korova Group, it was sold to Rob Preston's Pax Leisure in 2009.
In 2017, it was bought by Signature Living in a £3.1million deal, with ambitious plans to roll the Alma De Cuba concept out in cities across the UK, as well as a new Alma De Cuba hotel next door. It never happened.
Praying for time
The Liverpool ECHO recently reported that the business behind Alma de Cuba had gone into administration. The ECHO says Kroll was appointed as administrator in May 2022; up until then the venue was operated by UK Accommodation Ops Limited. Avensis Hospitality is currently looking after the day-to-day operations with all employees retained and expected to transfer to the new owner if a sale is completed.
So, what next for St Peter’s Church? Alma’s new management team says that it has exciting plans to develop the venue’s Cuban identity and bring something fresh and different to the city centre.
General manager Craig Cavanagh said, “This is the New Testament for Alma. It’s so stunning, like nowhere else in Liverpool, and we love it so that’s why we’re really keen to see where we can take it.”
Recent developments include a revamp of the outdoor terrace and new Cuban-inspired menus, including the likes of shrimp creole, chilli garlic prawns, Cuban meatballs and yucca fries. There’s a new cocktail menu too which reflects the theme and the team is working with Cuban rum specialists Bacardi on drinks ideas for the main bar and terrace.
Craig said, “There’s investment being made into the building and the business, the staff are fantastic and we’re 100% committed to making Alma a very special place. We believe the potential is limitless and we want the whole city to be involved.”
Coming up roses
Fans of Alma don’t need to worry that it’s all-change though - the legendary petal drop on the altar with samba fiesta on Saturday nights is definitely staying, and so are some of Alma’s most popular carnival nights like Seven Sins on Fridays and Voodoo on Saturdays. The gospel choir will still be raising the roof on the last Sunday of the month, and there’s now also a Bottomless Soul Brunch on Sundays alongside the traditional Sunday roast menu.
“Alma de Cuba is one of Liverpool’s best-loved venues and it’s given so much to the city over the years. We felt it deserved to be shown a bit of love so now the ideas are flowing and it’s getting the attention it deserves,” says Craig.
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