THE BAD PUB GUIDE

Words: STEPHEN BAXENDALE
February 17, 2013

The pubs in this guide are bleak, volatile and often genuinely unpleasant. These are bad pubs for bad people. These are pubs for people who have been barred from everywhere else. Luckily for you our resident lowlife specialist, Stephen Baxendale, has been barred from everywhere else. Twice over. We sent him to visit three of […]


The pubs in this guide are bleak, volatile and often genuinely unpleasant. These are bad pubs for bad people. These are pubs for people who have been barred from everywhere else. Luckily for you our resident lowlife specialist, Stephen Baxendale, has been barred from everywhere else. Twice over. We sent him to visit three of Liverpool’s seediest boozers so that you don’t have to. Aren’t we kind? Be grateful…

If you like visiting ‘nice’ pubs and you’re considering reading this article, don’t bother. You’ll find nothing of interest here. You’re not going to find our review of a trendy cocktail bar that has specialist rums imported from… wherever. You definitely will not read about establishments where you’ll see a ‘med’ student drinking apple sours. Nor are you going to find a gastro-pub that serves premium beers in a relaxing atmosphere.

Smoky Mo’s
1 Mount Pleasant, City Centre, Liverpool L3 5SX

I walked up the hill towards Smoky Mo’s. Liverpool’s altitude increases rapidly the further inland you get. Smoky Mo’s is at the base of Mount Pleasant, a street which runs straight up the steep climb of Liverpool’s geography. I’ve always found the journey up this street to be a perfect analogy of Liverpool’s culture…

At the top of Mount Pleasant are Liverpool’s highest aspirations; universities, cathedrals and hospitals, whilst at the bottom are Liverpool’s most base instincts. Bazooka chicken, the city’s shadiest fast food venue, the ruins of the infamous 051 club, closed due to there being too many stabbings, an insanely small Sayers… and of course, Smoky Mo’s.
I felt like getting wankered as soon as I walked in. The place is oppressively grim. They have clearly gone out of their way to make it as depressing and ugly as possible. A lot of money has been spent turning this shithole into a western themed bar. The corners and windows are full of life size plastic cowboys, which are covered in years of grime and shame, they leer down at you as you stand at the bar. The walls are covered in wood and arbitrary western memorabilia. Black and white photos of trains and shit, guns which are probably fake, the occasional bulls head. A sign above the bar claims that this is not a bar, and that it is in fact a saloon. I don’t feel completely immersed in the illusion as they seem to have stopped short in their efforts. There are no western style drinks, no mechanical bull, no wide selection of whisky’s. There are, however, several 52’ inch plasma screen televisions all showing Sky Sports News. Fairy lights hang from everywhere and school-disco style lights are beamed from the DJ booth. There’s nothing like a disco ball and Nick Powell to make you feel like you are back in the old west.

Everyone seemed unhappy there. I stood there sipping a warm Guinness and exchanging glares with everyone. They probably hated me because I wasn’t wearing the bar’s official uniform, football t-shit with blue jeans and black shoes. I was a little tense because Smoky Mo’s is a renowned epicentre of binge drinking induced violence and the last time I was here a man threatened to gut me for practically no reason at all.

The western theme is pointless too. Nobody is here for western related reasons, nobody. People are just here to get obliterated. Most of the patrons probably haven’t even noticed the plastic stereotypes staring down at them. Nobody has ever said, ‘Hey mate, do you know where I can get a drink but in a mildly wild-west infused atmosphere?’ Even if someone did ask me that, I would probably point them in the opposite direction, unless of course I was feeling particularly sadistic.
In between playing S Club Seven, Johnny Cash and Rihanna the DJ began to mumble like a bad Peter Kay sketch. He started asking if anyone wants to get up and do karaoke. He’s met by blank and angry stares. He picked up his own microphone and began to scream a rendition of Wonderwall in a thick Wirral accent. I started to wonder if you can cringe so much that you’re driven irreversibly insane.

The Royal George
Somewhere (it’s so dilapidated it’s difficult to accurately determine), London road, L3 5PX

If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s worth a trip to London Road because it’s a perfect example of how life will be after the nuclear apocalypse; People shuffling about in rags, clawing at supplies and crying.

London road is hellish at the best of times. It’s a bit like Liverpool One, only designed by people with severe neurological damage. Sprawling and shit, it houses shops that nobody likes and shops that don’t like its customers. And of course, the needle exchange, which keeps a steady supply of ‘local characters’ coming to the street. Worst of all, no matter where you drink you’re under the gaze of the demonic TJ HUGHES. The street is lined with filthy take-away shops and grimy boozers. The Royal George is the worst of all these boozers and is rumoured to be the smelliest pub in Europe.

The Royal George is exactly the sort of place that could have thrived before the smoking ban because the stench of tobacco smoke covered up the smell of the patrons. I walked through the door and the odour gripped me immediately. It’s not a simple smell, it’s like a fine wine in that the smell is layered and complex. The first note you get is piss. Old stale piss. The thick dark urine of drinkers. The smell you get in subways and piss alleys. Then sweat. Not the hot sweat of a gym goer. This is a dry sweat which has festered under the armpits of men too lazy to take their coats off as they drink. Then there’s something sweet and strange like rotting meat. If you take a deep breath you begin to get the subtle tones of human shite which permeate the air. Horrible.

The strangest thing is everyone acts like this smell isn’t going on. The patrons are mostly mutants who have crawled in from the local area so they’re probably incapable of perceiving it.

Upon entering, all their eyes fixed upon me, watching my reaction to the smell. I tried to act like a regular and walk to the bar. But something went wrong. I was too conscious of people watching me and I began to over think every movement. My walk became long and exaggerated and I practically ended up lunging to the bar. I was trying to smile as I ordered my drink, but the smell was too much and the smile began to falter and somewhere along the line I lost control of half of my face and could only manage a crooked smile on one side.

I sipped my pint, which was fairly decent but my tongue was beginning to pick up the smells of the bar. I couldn’t imagine why anyone put up with the smell. It can’t be because there is nowhere else to drink, this is London Road for god’s sake. The place is practically made of pubs. There’s another pub so close that I could reach out the window and punch it if I wanted to.

The owners clearly knew of the situation because on every table, every window ledge, every surface, was a cheap plastic air freshener. But even in their numbers they were overwhelmed. A bit like that film 300.

There was no time to decipher the mysteries of this peculiar odour because I couldn’t finish my pint. The piss and shit particles had settled on my tongue and every sip was painfully disgusting. I calmly turned around, put on a lob sided smile and lunged out of pub.

The Blob Shop
40 Great Charlotte Street Liverpool, Merseyside L1 1HU

This isn’t just an old man’s pub. This is an old bastard’s pub.
The pub was populated almost entirely by indestructible hardmen. Their ages were difficult to determine. They all had that impoverished look were they could be anywhere between thirty and eighty. Everyone had an obligatory addiction to gambling. Hands like sandpaper. Smiles mostly devoid of teeth. Deep lines carved into their faces from hard lives of manual labour or crime. Everyone looked unhealthy enough to warrant calling an ambulance. They seemed so used to self-abuse that I imagine none of them get hangovers, I imagine they could drink a pint of arsenic and they wouldn’t even need an aspirin the next day. I got no aggression from these people though. In fact I quite liked them. Everyone seemed to be there by themselves but everyone still seemed to know everyone else. There was no pretension about real ales or paranoia about chemicals in their beer. They come to The Blob Shop for drinking, not posturing. The patrons were quite happy to order a round of Stella with no-name brand whisky chasers.

The men clung to dignity. Suits were worn that held up faces that looked like they were weighed down by lead. They took frequent breaks from boozing to nip to the betting shop next door or outside for a cigarette. When anyone looked at each other for long enough they would ask ‘Where are you from? Lad’. Which is a very Liverpool way of sizing people up, to these people you’re considered a ‘wool’ if you weren’t conceived and birthed within a mile of central station.
The women there are dreadful. They look like bits of meat that have been left out in the sun for too long. Even to a heterosexual male the men here are more sexually attractive. The females wore functional, elasticated clothing decorated with thick and ugly gold jewellery. Their hair is almost always cut off, presumably to save time getting ready and leave more time for drinking. The women there consume nothing but Aussie Whites. A dark and surgery fortified wine which is dispensed from a giant barrel at the back of the bar and sold for one pounds fifty a glass.
The Blob Shop itself is an oddity. It is a time capsule to the pubs of fifty years ago. The lighting is warm and comfortable. The setup is simple. Wooden chairs and bare wood floors. The décor is pleasantly unpleasant.
The pub isn’t so much as next to a bookmakers, but more as if it’s in a symbiotic relationship with it. Like a barnacle clinging to a whales stomach. Some men seem to be there only to see the outcome of gambles they have made. They vent extreme anger at the televisions that hang from the ceiling every time their bets don’t pay off. Then they have a pint and nip next door to place another loosing gamble.

I decided to see what all the fuss was about and fought my way to the bar. I ordered an Aussie White. When it came it moved in slow viscous waves. It tasted of tea, dark sugar and white wine. The sugar high is immediate. But drops off quickly. There’s a strong kick of alcohol too. You feel compelled to take another slug. It’s addictive, you almost feel depressed when you are not downing it. I felt horrible and sexy. It was brilliant. I wondered, if this is how Australians feel all the time? I ordered another Aussie White. Then four more. Then another two.
I sat in the corner nursing my sugar and alcohol high and watching the drunks hobbling up and down the road outside. Heading off to concert square or A&E. I stayed there for the rest of the night because for a bad pub it’s pretty good.


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