A LANDMARK building best known for staging some of The Beatles’ earliest concerts is thriving once again after undergoing a major overhaul in its centenary year.
The Oxford Building on Duke Street was host to a number of gigs by the Fab Four between 1962 and 1963 when it was the Plaza.
It has had numerous guises though, and down the decades has been the scene for plenty of blossoming romances, drunken celebrations, dodgy dancing and a few bouts of fisticuffs.
Its identities since opening in 1912 as a cinema (Oxford Picturedrome) designed in a Georgian style by architect William Pearson have included ballroom, bar and nightclub.
But, after falling into disrepair when the Orange House pub closed about seven years ago, there were fears a venue with significant historical links to St Helens entertainment and social scene could be lost.
However, after being snapped up at auction by local businessmen, it has been transformed by developers who have converted it into five units, the latest of which is home to the St Helens’ traditional restaurant Larkins.
According to researchers, the Beatles played the first of five gigs at the Plaza on June 25, 1962.
The venue, run by Whetstone Entertainment, paid the Fab Four £25 for their first gig.
It is said that by the time they made their fifth and final performance there in March 4, 1963 they were paid £100.
Elsewhere it has also provided a new base for local businesses, including Galaxy Blinds, Julie Waterhouse hairdressers and a chemist.
Ste Palfrey, the 40-year-old businessman who has worked with Craig Construction to bring the building back to life, said: “It was a risk but I’m made up that we’ve brought a building like this back into use. It was derelict and it stood out to me every time I drove past.
“I thought it was such a shame and believed I could do something about it. It is most famous for hosting gigs by the Beatles.”
Ste, a former Star graphic designer, who now runs his own agency PalfreyGreer and is part owner of the Ruskin Drive leisure complex, said: “A challenge for us was maintaining the traditional appearance of the building, while developing it into different units.
“We’ve made some major alterations which has allowed us to create the restaurant upstairs.
“People of a certain age who eat at Larkins will come in and see the arching roof, coving, steps and other traditional features I’m sure they’ll recognise that it used to be the Plaza or Lowies (nightclub).
“One of the units remains downstairs but we’ve had some interests and are confident of filling it. For my point of view it is great to generate some economic development in St Helens.”
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