Living Ventures is tipped to be among the frontrunners to open a restaurant at the Cunard Building, the historic landmark at Pier Head now owned by Liverpool City Council.
The council and agents CBRE are in the early stages of drawing up a marketing campaign for the prominent waterfront building which sits between the Royal Liver Building and the Port of Liverpool Building but have already started discussions with leisure operators keen to move to the site.
Living Ventures declined to comment at this stage. A spokesman for Liverpool City Council said: "It was indicated that when Liverpool City Council took possession of Cunard that we would be looking at all options for commercial use of vacant space in the building. While nothing has been determined yet we are talking to a range of potential investors and are confident that we will attract new business and tenants to Cunard."
Sources in the hospitality trade said Living Ventures was considering putting its Australasia format, currently only traded out of Manchester's Spinningfields, where it occupies an underground space below 1 The Avenue, into Cunard.
Also linked with the plush former passenger lounges in the ground floor of the Cunard Building is fine dining chef Aiden Byrne. However, Byrne told Place North West the rumour was not true and he was concentrating on his Manchester House joint venture with Living Ventures in Tower 12, Spinningfields. Byrne said: "We have no plans to open a restaurant this year."
The ground floor of the Cunard contains two suites of 17,000 sq ft each. One fronts the waterfront side and was used for first class passengers when luxury cruise liner group Cunard occupied the building from its construction in 1917 to the 1960s. The other suite, the standard class booking hall, faces the inland Strand main road side between the city centre and the Pier Head. The ground floor retains many of the original features of the listed building, designed by William Edward Willink and Philip Coldwell Thicknesse in a mix of Greek Revival and Italian Renaissance styles. The council is in the process of relocating staff from Millennium House and The Capital to the upper floors of Cunard. There will still be 120,000 sq ft of vacant office space to market at the 285,000 sq ft building after the local authority has taken occupation.
The council paid around £10m to buy the long leasehold from Merseyside Pension Fund, completing the deal in March 2014.
CBRE declined to comment.