Owners, Gracious Development Group, have spent eight months restoring the Royal Institution, retaining original features and bringing back its former elegance to create a club where members can work, eat, drink and relax.
With an all-day menu and meeting spaces, they hope it will become a place for Liverpool’s professionals and creatives to get together for work or take a break and enjoy bringing guests. True to its 19th century roots, Royal Institution on Colquitt Street will combine style and service, with a range of complimentary perks available for members to take advantage of.
Co-owner Ryan McMahon said: “We wanted to provide a comfortable and safe environment where people could come to relax and get really good service and great cocktails, premium spirits and champagne. The main focus of Royal Institution is the service. When a member comes through the door, either on their own or with their guests, everything needs to be absolutely perfect. It’s really important to us to offer that level of service where even the smallest, most subtle detail has been thought about and taken care of.”
Gracious Development Group has owned Aloha bar in the basement of the Royal Institution building for the past eight years, and originally intended to develop the site for its head office. Ryan explained: “It had been used by Barnardo’s and when it became available we planned to take it on to use for our own offices. But then when we found out the history of the building, we saw the potential it had and realised we had to do something more in keeping with its incredible past. That’s when we decided to open a private members’ club.”
Royal Institution dates back to 1814, when it was first established by Liverpool philanthropists to “promote literature, science and arts.” It was officially opened in November 1817 by philanthropist William Roscoe and awarded its Royal Charter four years later. The downstairs rooms – now meeting spaces, an independent spirits, wine and beer merchant, restaurant and bar – were used by the Literary and Philosophical Society and by The Liverpool Academy.
There was also a room to display paintings from William Roscoe’s private collection and books which featured beautiful colour lithograph prints of birds and insects by famous New York painter and ornithologist John James Audubon. A selection of those have now been reproduced in striking artwork on the walls of the new club, and the owners have also managed to track down one of only 50 original gilt-edged books presented to invited guests at the opening event to feature in the club’s archives.
“By adding all these touches we wanted to give people a real sense of the building’s history,” added co-owner Danny Murphy. “We did a huge amount of research on the building when we moved in to allow us to create something that really fitted with it, so we kept and restored as many original features as we could and made sure the ones we added complemented those.”
Potential members will be interviewed and Royal Institution will charge an annual membership fee of £250. Compared to London private members’ clubs like Soho House it’s low, but Ryan stresses it’s more about attitude than affluence. “Royal Institution is all about a different level of service and we were confident that people would be willing to pay for that. We kept the fee small, it covers the benefits we’re offering to members, because really it’s more about finding people who buy into what we’re offering and appreciate it.”
Royal Institution, 24 Colquitt Street, L1 4DE