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Manchester’s best queer and lesbian bars

Robyn Exton

Oct 10, 2022

Manchester’s best queer and lesbian bars
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  • Lesbian bars are infamously hard to come by, especially after some truly heartbreaking COVID-related closures — but if you’re out in Manchester, you’re in luck. 

    Not only is Manchester home to one of the most famous lesbian bars in the country, you’ll also find a wide variety of lesbian-friendly places to hang out. As the birthplace of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in 1964, it’s a city with a rich history of LGBTQ+ activism and community, one that sits alongside its famous music scene. 

    According to the city’s own website, it boasts the country’s largest LGBTQ+ community outside of London. And its Gay Village, centred around the famous Canal Street, attracts queer tourists from all over the world. So let’s dive in — here are some of the choicest, most lesbian-friendly places to check out in Manchester.


    No 1 Canal Street

    Source: No 1 Canal Street on Facebook

    Let’s start with something a bit fancy. Canal Street is famous for its nightlife, but it also has a fresh dining option that’s only a short walk from Piccadilly Station. 

    Whether you’ve got a classy date to impress or you’re just in the mood for something genuinely delicious, No 1 Canal Street is hard to beat. This multi-award-winning restaurant and bar is the newest venture of lesbian couple Lisa Kettle and Danielle Condron — and it’s right in the heart of the Village, in case you want to head out for a little something extra after wining and dining. 

    It’s got a nice drink selection but, of course, the food menu is where you’ll find the real party. The cuisine is mostly modern British mixed with Asian, and they’re also open during the day if you’re after a cruisy brunch. One reviewer raves that it’s “simply the best restaurant we’ve found in the whole of Manchester, for both the food quality and service.” 

    Sounds good, but we think the best part is that they’re dog-friendly. Just try to book ahead of time if you can, though they do accept walk-ins.


    Vanilla

    Source: Vanilla on Facebook

    Okay, now that we’ve covered a more chill option, let’s talk about someplace a little… extra. And someplace very sapphic. 

    Remember when we mentioned that famous lesbian bar? Well, this is it — the award-winning Vanilla is for lesbians, by lesbians, and has been operating since 1998. Managed by a queer woman of colour, this famed lesbian party zone claims to be “where the girls are.” And they live up to it, with mostly women DJs and staff (men are welcome to visit but, well, they aren’t the majority). 

    It’s also where you’ll find a bubblegum super-femme aesthetic, some reasonably priced cocktails and pop favourites to keep you dancing. Plus, you can catch major acts like Todrick Hall. Be aware that this is primarily a place for a big night out — keep tabs on the parties and live sets frequently announced via their social media


    Oscars Bar 

    Source: Oscars Bar on Facebook

    Ready for some renowned cocktails and a sing-a-long? If so, Oscars Bar might be a non-negotiable stop-in, because it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have something nice to say about these cocktails. Set right in the middle of the Village on Canal Street, it’s more of a gay bar but still has plenty of women and gender-nonconforming staff and patrons.

    Though you can catch live cabaret acts from performers like Vivienne Lynsey, Oscars Bar is also a perpetual celebration of musical theatre and film — showtunes are almost always streaming on screen, inviting you to belt along yourself. Reviewers rave about this intimate little bar, calling it one of their favourites in the Village: “Great place to have a good laugh, a sing-a-long and the best cocktails in town by a mile.”

    But be sure to grab a seat as soon as you can, since a place this fun (and small) fills up fast. Oh, and if you’re ever celebrating Pride in Manchester, keep an eye out for an Oscars pop-up!


    TriBeCa

    Source: TripAdvisor

    On the outskirts of the Village, the unique lounge TriBeCa gives major Manhattan energy with its loft-style ambience and large sofas for sipping cocktails in style. For more than two decades, it’s offered a slightly more relaxed venue compared to the rest of the Village and has quick, easy pub food to keep you fueled for the night. 

    But don’t let its chill vibe fool you. With drag nights, comedy shows, LGBTQ+ art shows, pub quizzes and theme nights, reviewers say TriBeCa is a great spot for a little mischief. Plus, you’re sure to find diverse entertainment and staff — despite TriBeCa not being an exclusive lesbian bar, one reviewer said, “one of the most diverse bars in Manchester and in the [Village].”


    The Brewers

    Source: The Brewers Manchester on Facebook 

    From glitzy fairy-tale-themed drag parties to variety shows based on peri-menopause, you’d be hard-pressed to find a venue with more going on than this relatively new addition to Canal Street. The Brewersevent line-up (and commitment to documenting it) is truly impressive — plus, it’s a fab choice if you don’t want to have to choose between great cocktails or great dancing. 

    The gay energy is palpable even from outside, with rainbow lights streaming out of the club’s ornate windows. But inside is where the magic happens, with a light-up dance floor and what reviewers have dubbed a buzzing atmosphere, sexy bar team and diverse crowd: “Just what Canal Street needs.”


    New York New York

    Source: New York New York on Facebook

    Also known as “the Party Palace,” New York New York is the quintessential Village nightclub and has been working to provide a safe, welcoming atmosphere for over thirty years. It’s been woman-led for most of that time, with club owner Tracey dubbed “the Queen of the Village.” 

    So what’s it like? Be ready for some amazingly cheesy dance anthems and live DJ sets on the weekends, when the club is open until 4 am. Oh, and it has a massive disco ball if size matters to you. 

    The consensus among online reviewers is that, despite maybe a few too many hens’ parties, New York New York delivers on its mission to make sure everyone has an incredible night: “Brilliant staff and owner. Brilliant acts. Makes me feel happy every time.”


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    Robyn Exton

    Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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