What could be better after a hard day’s sightseeing? Visitors to Liverpool, birthplace of the Beatles, can rest their heads in the Lennon or McCartney suites at the Fab Four-themed Hard Days Night Hotel that opened Friday.
More than 45 years after John, Paul, George and Ringo emerged from Liverpool’s tiny, sweaty clubs to conquer the world, the Beatles industry is key to this battered-but-proud city’s attempt to transform itself from fading commercial hub to thriving cultural hotbed.
The 110-room Hard Days Night Hotel hopes to be its newest attraction.
“It’s stunning, spectacular,” said Julia Baird, John Lennon’s half-sister, after being shown around the $1,300-a-night penthouse suite named for her brother. “It’s like Liverpool. Outside it hasn’t changed, but inside there’s rocketing change.”
A smart, four-star establishment housed within a 19th century mercantile building, the hotel aims to provide everything a Beatles fan could desire – from the Yellow Submarine jukebox in the lobby to the rare photographs on the walls – while also catering to corporate travelers and tourists on a weekend break.
“That was a very important part of the whole concept, to get the balance,” said Jonathan Davies, director of the developer that stepped in three years ago to revive stalled plans for the hotel. “People who don’t particularly like the Beatles – we want them to come to the hotel. And we’re sure they will come.”
The overall impression is more classy than kitsch. In many ways it’s a typical upmarket hotel, decorated in cream, black and chocolate brown. There’s a stylish bar, and a “modern European” restaurant serving organic salmon, free-range chicken and English lamb.
Downstairs are Hari’s basement bar, decorated with pictures of the bearded Beatles in their Maharishi-following days, and “The Two of Us,” a wedding chapel adorned with pictures of the Fab Four and their spouses.
The guest rooms, which start at $340 a night, are decorated with artwork by American painter Shannon, “The World’s Greatest Beatles Artist” – a title officially bestowed on her by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool.
Most luxurious are the two suites. The centerpiece of Lennon’s is a white baby grand piano, while McCartney’s contains a real suit of armor. Sir Paul is a knight, after all.
Beatles music plays at an unobtrusive volume in the lobby, the restaurant, even the restrooms.
So will the hotel offer a nonstop Beatles soundtrack?
“No,” said general manager Mike Dewey. “That would drive me mad.”
The Beatles are never far away in Liverpool, a city of half a million about 200 miles northwest of London.
Just around the corner from the hotel on narrow, bar-lined Mathew Street is the Cavern Club – a reconstruction, on the original site, of the basement dive where The Beatles honed their skills. Down the street is the Cavern Walks shopping mall – or “boutique emporium” – complete with Beatles shop and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds restaurant. Visitors can take Magical Mystery bus tours to Penny Lane, or visit the Beatles Story museum down on the city docks.
Some of it may verge on the tacky, but even on a blustery winter day a steady stream of tourists stop to have their picture taken beside the John Lennon statue at the end of the street. In the summer, it’s packed.
Liverpool has remade itself in other ways, too, with new art galleries, a thriving music scene and the title of European Capital of Culture for 2008, a status that is expected to bring thousands of extra tourists to a city long afflicted by a reputation for poverty and violence.
The visitors from across Europe checking in to the Hard Days Night Hotel on Friday suggest Liverpool’s attempt to improve its image may be working. Most were going on the inevitable Beatles tours, but also found plenty of other things to attract them.
Eddy Anselmi from Bologna, Italy, said he planned to visit the Tate Liverpool art gallery and attend a Liverpool Football Club soccer game.
He said he chose the hotel for “the idea of being the first customer of a place that will shape the new Liverpool. This place will be here in 10 or 20 years, and I can say I was here.”
General manager Dewey says the hotel’s backers have had no direct contact with the surviving Beatles, although Ringo Starr was quoted as saying he would have stayed at the hotel on a recent visit to the city, had it been open.
Baird is certain her brother and his bandmates would approve.
“In the middle of Liverpool? Around the corner from the Cavern? Of course they would.”