The Mersey Venues:
The Downbeat. Victoria Street, Liverpool

By Bill Harry  

June 4 1964

Tommy McGuirk and Wayne Bickerton of the Pete Best Four at the Downbeat.One of Merseyside's most luxurious and comfortable venues is the Downbeat Club in Victoria Street, owned by Jim Ireland who also runs the Mardi Gras.

Opened just over four years ago, the club is licensed and membership is restricted to over 18's. It is open four nights each week: Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and between two and three beat groups are featured each night.

Len McMillan, who has been manager of the club since it first opened, told Mersey Beat: "At first we featured only jazz groups and bands, with a beat group now and then. Eventually when the beat boom started we switched over to solely beat groups about 18 months ago."

Among jazz greats who have appeared there are Johnny Dankworth, Ronnie Ross, Tubby Hayes, Kenny Baker and Bruce Turner, and the club has also featured most of Merseyside's top groups, including the Swinging Bluejeans, the Remo Four and the Escorts.

The decor of the club was designed by Liverpool artist Bob Percival, who also painted the murals. Stage designer Sean Kelly, who is designing the sets for the 'Maggie May' musical, was so impressed with the Downbeat's decor that he made sketches and took photographs for ideas for the beat club scenes in the musical.

The club, which accommodates about 350, was also the first in Liverpool to use ultra violet lights which spotlight white clothes.

There are about 6,000 members, but Len explained, "The number varies, because we have a wide and floating membership." Admission to the club is restricted to members and bona fide guests.

The club is the only beat venue in Liverpool which is open during the afternoon, incidentally, for the sale of drinks and snack to members.

Prices of admission to the club, which regularly features such groups as Cy Tucker's Friars, Earl Preston's Realms and the Kinsleys, vary from 4s to 5s with guests paying 1s extra.

Len said, "There is the possibility that we may expand the premises in the future to cater for the demand, so that the club would become one of the biggest beat clubs in the city."

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