I like my Manchester nightlife, as you've probably noticed unless this is your first visit to the site. I've written a lot about the places to which I give my seal of approval. But what about the places I won't go to? And why won't I go there? And more to the point, if we have the same taste, which places should you avoid like chlamydia?
The whole of Oldham's bar strip can do one. I haven't been in years. The place is populated by crazed neo-nazi sociopaths, stalkers, weirdos and people who clearly haven't set foot out of their own borough since last August's trip to Benedorm. Thankfully the bar strip has been dying a death since the Panorama documentary aired in '09, exposing the town's horrendous problems with alcohol and violence.
Every branch of this Australasian franchise is the same- dodgy mainstream spirits, overpriced, sticky floors, tacky décor, shite pop music that should have been kept in landfill since 2007, gold-chain-wearing roid-heads desperate to prove themselves and women who think they're Christina Aguliera (but more resemble The Fat Slags from the Viz comic). Manchester's Quay St branch may be larger than most, but it's no exception.
Me and rock music do not mix. I like some of the songs, but the venue as a whole is as far from “my thing” as you can get.
Similar to the above only on a smaller scale- indie music leaves me cold. Bland clientele with minimal female talent. Floor like a swamp.
Another indie venue of similar appearance and sound. In fact, in about 2007 I went to meet some people in 5th Ave but forgot where it was and strayed into 42nd without even thinking. It was only when I saw the 42nd emblems on the walls that the penny dropped and I realised I had to trek across town to meet my mates in an equally depressing hellhole.
6) Revolucion De Cuba
I went here on the opening night and received more than my fill of Daddy Yankee, Pitbull and J-Lo. Slow bar service. It's drinks menu is mostly rum-based, so as a whisky drinker I wasn't bowled over. Yawn. Crowded, slow service. Also, I got stalked by some twins who go here a lot.
The bar centre of Stalybridge used to be decent when nightclub Rififi was open and playing house and dance music. After a while it slipped into the realm of mainstream, and with it came the roided up 18-year-olds desparate to prove themselves, which resulted in the original clientele sacking it off and shelling out for Manchester instead. The club died a death and surrounding bars soon followed suit.
Small cramped indie venue out near Quay Street. Sorry, but when Spinningfields' The Avenue is right next door, there's really no reason for me to have a “down and dirty” night.
Not an easy one to explain- it's not badly designed, quite smart, has a decent clientele with a handful of good looking women- even the music's pretty good with 00's era RnB and a bit of house thrown in. But it's also very cramped, and the Yellow Submarine theme of the design is a bit too gimmicky for repeated visits.
The amount of times I've had problems with this Blackfriars Rd venue is ridiculous. Their nights are “regulars only”, so you have to be turned down a few times before the doormen recognise you and give you a chance. It's like getting into Project Mayhem in Fight Club, only instead of a dilapidated building it's a swanky but soulless rectangular box playing house music. It's populated largely by stuck-up dolly birds and steroid abusers desperate to prove that they aren't just pretty boys (which is subjective to begin with). It's a shame because I have met a few decent people there, and the DJs are superb.
11) The Gay Village
Yes. The entirety of the Gay Village is off limits for me for a number of reasons.
First, the narrow streets are a perfect prowling ground for pickpockets, of which there are many in Manchester. Watch out for people trying to salsa dance with you- they're after your phones, and they are surprisingly good at it. Second, the music in the Village is dire, even by cheesy standards. It's another level. If Revolucion De Cuba is Wensleydale, AXM is pure Gorgonzola. It's off the chart horrendous. Third, straight guys like me get HOUNDED in the village. We get lots of unwanted attention, on a level that we don't get anywhere else, and it leaves me feeling like I've got to watch my back at every moment. Fourth, The Village includes Canal Street, an area of canal water. It's right next to a load of bars in which people get drunk. And people do drown in those canals. It's never been a good idea to have the two factors so close together, but in recent years this has been a particular hazard- a number of bodies were pulled out of the canals in Manchester Centre. Canal Street has been a popular drinking area for decades, but these deaths have only occurred in recent years. Fifth- many suspect the deceased- all men- were murdered. I believe it's possible.
This Portland Street dive is largely full of drunk people who think they can sing, but cannot. You'll be waiting a long time if you want to join the karaoke queue- at least an hour on a Saturday night. Crowded and plain (aside from the fluorescent seats that change colour like a bad acid trip). Some drunk chav offered me a free bump of cocaine in the toilets. I politely declined.
I used to drink here every Thursday night back in 2000-2001. It was a weekly ritual in college, and I did it basically to fit in. The bars were dull and the music was shit, apart from an hour of garage and R'n'B in Loveshack (appropriately known as Shit Shack). The men outnumbered the women 2:1 and the females you came across were rarely good-looking (there was the odd exception, before my contacts there kick off). There were never enough taxis, even on a Thursday, so you ended up risking being punched by a chav in the cab queue outside the market.
I used to live just off Oxford Rd in Manchester's student area. The stretch of the street caters to students who only want alcohol- no conversation, no particular style of music other than cheese, no range of visual style, just dull box-like rooms with a bar in it playing Two Princes and Chesney Hawkes numerous times a night. Enough to put you off going to uni and getting into debt in the first place.
A small town on the outskirts of Oldham, Royton caters to people who have a particular desire to either drive souped-up Golfs around town mouthing off at people, or to throw bottles at said drivers.
A very deprived area of Oldham with high racial tension and low cleanliness. If you really want a suicidal night, check out The Cartoon, a pub for teenagers with steroid rage (and the acne to match), who kick off with their own girlfriends and punch the fruit machines.
Scenic with plenty of greenery, if you like that kind of thing, but it still has its fair share of knobheads. Uppermill can frequently be rough. Miles from anywhere metropolitan. A nightmare to get in and out of when it snows. Some of the smaller villages like Delph and Dobcross are impossible to find without a satnav. Like the Gay Village, Uppermill has a load of drinking establishments right next to an un-cordoned canal. (It's never the wisest idea, but side issue: why don't people fall into the canals in Saddleworth? Why only the Gay Village?)
This clunky-looking Spinningfields-located Thai restaurant serves unimpressive food on rough, uncomfortable seating.
If stripy-jumpered hooligans swilling Stella while trying it on with women wearing 7 pairs of earrings is your thing, look no further. One horrific but admittedly unsurprising incident in Rochdale's nightlife history was when Lee Anthony Bradley purposefully drove a stolen car straight into one of the bars.
20) The Moon Under The Water
The biggest pub in Manchester is also one of the chavviest. Terribly-dressed clientele, shit pop music, dull drinks and... well, it's a Wetherspoons. They're all the same.
Tikki “dive bar” in the Northern Quarter. The name says it all- it's a dive. Built like a shack, cramped, adourned with thousands of photographs like the home of a crazed detective trying to solve too many mysteries at once. I'm not a rum fan, so the drinks I don't find particularly exciting.
Another Tikki bar on Back Bridge Street off Deansgate. As far as I'm concerned it's indistinguishable from the above.
I used to like the Wednesday Love Train nights back in my student days, but that now the club has been “refurbished” at the cost of £2 million the 70's-themed disco-fest has been cut from the roster. The club looks no different after the apparent makeover. I went more recently on a Saturday. Music was too heavy. I like my house music, but it was all a bit tech-y for my tastes. Also, the male-to-female ratio included no fit women in the noticeably cock-heavy crowd.
It occurs to me writing this that the whole of Portland Street needs a makeover. Or maybe not- the people I've met there have usually been trouble, and the bars are a dump anyway. Keep them there.
Next door to Wave. Similar clientele, worse décor.
I'm not in the habit of frequenting lap dancing clubs, but the one time I went to this one was when EVERYWHERE was dead on a Friday night about 4 years ago. Rough venue, average-looking dancers, mostly drunk and coked up girls who can't dance and would still be overpriced even if it smartened up.
I tend to stay away from the Printworks as a general rule of thumb, but this particular Irish bar's wooden décor and cramped multi-storey layout makes me feel like a hobbit that never left the shire.
Cramped, low-roofed public house opposite Deansgate Locks. Just felt very claustrophobic to me. But, I was there for a very busy event.
Although this is an Oxford Rd bar, I felt it necessary to list this separate to number 14) as the majority of the street caters for students, but not this bar. Close to the St Peter's Square where the road changes its name to Peter St, The Temple is a bar that was converted from public toilets some years ago. Great if you like cramped awkward settings, no fire exits, leather-clad sweaty bikers and women that could easily beat you up.
Very old and run-down pub out near the CIS buildings beyond the Northern Quarter. I only ever went there because some strange guy I was mates with liked to go to get hammered and perform terrible karaoke. You still see the roughest clientele in the city sat on the benches outside on a Saturday evening, arguing about which tracksuit is best to go out in or how to score crack the cheapest. Or whatever.
Rock venue on Princess St. Could have sworn I went here when I was 18 and hated it, but that was 15 years ago. I'm looking through the pictures right now. I don't recognise it, but I'm sure as shit not going.
32) Bella Italia
There's a branch of this chain Italian restaurant in Piccadilly Gardens. I went twice in around 2000 / 2001: the first time 2 of us got food poisoning, the second time the girl who did the first time ordered what I'm sure was the same dish and got food poisoning again.
Described as a “wine cavern” on Google, this hidden-away watering hole is designed to look like it's carved out of a giant rock on Half Moon St near the Royal Exchange. A concave-roofed affair blasting indie music on a juke box, the claustrophobic bar- not unlike the cantina from Star Wars, but without the puppets- has astoundingly-good reviews on Google. By people who like that kind of thing.
Another dive bar that looks as if it'll fall down next week. Not far from Liars and Mojo, if you want a suicidal night out.
35) The Ruby Lounge
Rock venue in the Northern Quarter. I had a mate in a punk band who was “singing” there. I felt very out of place. Shame, because its former incarnation- Ohm- was a cool house music club. (But then, there were a handful of arseholes then too.)
So if you're a person after my own heart, male or female, you might not enjoy these places. So where might you enjoy instead? Well, stay tuned for further posts and you'll get plenty of ideas...