LFChistory had the great opportunity to spend an evening at the recently opened Shankly hotel in Victoria Street in Liverpool. LFChistory also owns Shankly.com so we were obviously excited about visiting the hotel for the first time. We were also luckily enough to be granted the chance to sit down with the director and grandson of the Monarch of Merseyside; Christopher William Shankly Carline (son of Jeanette), to answer some of our questions regarding the hotel.
How did the idea of the Shankly hotel come about?
It was an idea I had been toying with for a few years. I had always wanted to do something in my grandad’s name and the possibility setting up a hotel had always been my primary ambition. I follow Liverpool Football Club home and away and many of the cities I’ve travelled to seem to accommodate more for football fans; for example Chelsea has the Chelsea village to house fans in and around matchdays. Therefore, with the amount of fans coming into Liverpool for the football, I thought there was a need to cater for them.
How difficult was turning an idea into a reality?
One of my closest friends was a development officer in Liverpool. His job was to meet with developers etc and bring investment and projects to the city. He introduced me to a number of individuals and companies all of whom wanted to go forward with the project; but for us as the Shankly family it was extremely important to find the right people to do the venture with as my grandad is iconic and known for being the man of the people. The partner in the project needed to have a similar ethos and work with us to make sure the completed hotel also carry this ethos. Every time I met with someone; I’d go away and do due diligence and come to the conclusion that they weren’t right for the project UNTIL I was introduced to Lawrence and Katie Kenwright of Signature Living.
I had already seen what Signature were doing in Liverpool and loved their concept and brand. It tied in perfectly as it is all geared towards giving the guest (the people) the best possible experience you can, and making them come back. We had a 2 hour meeting and were literally finishing each other’s sentences. I came out the meeting and turned to my friend and said, “These are the ones.” Three years later we are sat in the number 1 rated hotel in Liverpool! Lawrence, Katie and the whole Signature Team have been fantastic from day one. The vision, dedication and drive from everyone involved makes it a pleasure to work with them all every day.
Did you liase with Liverpool Football Club at all about your interest in building a hotel in your grandad’s name?
Yes, I sat down with the club; however, it didn’t come to anything and was a waste of time really. No disrespect to the gentleman who I met, but he wasn’t a decision maker. Approaching them with venture as big as The Shankly hotel, I really should have had the opportunity to discuss my ideas with the senior directors or even Ian Ayre. Anyway, it didn’t happen, but to be honest the Shankly family don’t really get involved much in the club now, we get two season tickets which were my grandad’s anyway and we do get invited up for events such as anniversaries etc.
So how many rooms do you have available?
Currently we have 63 Shankly themed rooms and are currently in the process of expanding in order to meet demand. We opened in August 2015 and the hotel already is the number #1 rated hotel in Liverpool on Trip Advisor.
We have also seen you stage Liverpool events with former players….
That’s correct. We already had an event with Jerzy Dudek organized by Lunch with Legends. Moreover, a few weeks back we welcomed John Arne Riise to the hotel which was also a huge success. We are also working to improve our hospitality installations and once ready event organizers such as former Liverpool defender Nick Tanner and 5times, the official ex-players’ association, will be holding unique evenings at the Shankly.
In addition, we have just recently started to invite former players to come along on matchdays and enjoy the Liverpool games with our guests; previewing and reviewing and answering any questions regarding our performance etc. So far, we have been treated to the company of Ian Callaghan and Jason McAteer and are looking to add more names in the near future.
Are you mainly catering for Liverpool fans?
Absolutely not, all our Liverpool events and so on are usually held around matchdays, when we are primary catering for football fans. However, we welcome all types of guests, including families, couples and even hen and stag parties. We didn’t want to limit ourselves just to Liverpool fans as my grandad was a man of the people and made many friends in football all from over the country. We have had Everton fans staying too as my grandad had a good relationship with the blues and visited Bellefield on a numerous occasions after retiring.
As you can see the design of the hotel reflects my granddad’s personality – Shanklyesque if you like. We never wanted to bombard guests with red flags and banners as soon as they walk into reception. Yes, it has everything a football fan would want but also if you want to come in for a quiet meal or a drink guests aren’t overwhelmed with football memorabilia etc.
Which members of the Shankly family are involved in the hotel?
I am the Director. Emma my cousin and therefore one of the grandchildren is the Guest Relations Manager and Jenny my sister works in the finance department. Also my mum Jeanette (Bill’s daughter) lends a hand when she can, which is a great help to me.
I imagine many of the quests you stay at the hotel are admires of your grandad, are you still listening things from them?
Yes, absolutely, I’m always getting told stories that I have never heard before from the quests and the former players when they visit, even my mum; she never really talks about her dad and you have to catch her at the right moment for her to open up about him.
(At this point of the interview a friend of LFChistory.net and former LFC youth player Mr. Billy Howard broke off to tell Chris about his granddad’s first day at Liverpool which was new to Chris).
“Tuesday the 15th December 1959, I went to Melwood straight from work on my bike; I was early, the only one in the dressing room. I started getting changed and sat down reading the Echo. The headlines were all about “Bill Shankly becoming the new Liverpool manager”. The door opens, in walks this guy wearing a black tracky top, shorts socks and baseball boots. Crikey it’s him, Shanks was stood there before me, what a presence! “Where’s the office son?” he asked me, “Through there, sir,” I replied nervously, “Thanks” he said and off he went, my life!! He only signed last night and there he was ready for action. I had only ever seen the previous manager Phil Taylor three times, each time he was always wearing a suit and tie.”
Finally Chris, what are your future plans for the hotel?
Current expansion plans will include; more guest rooms and larger wedding and hospitality spaces. Moreover, another restaurant, bar and a rooftop terrace with a heated pool will be added. All of which will hopefully be ready for the start of this summer. We are always looking for ways to improve and enhance our guest’s experience. We are even investing in virtual reality technology so when guests are eating in the Bastion bar my grandad will be sat next to them!
Interview conducted by Carl Clemente (Carl@lfchistory.net / @clemente_carl on Twitter). By:lfchistory.net