Independent theatre and bar 53Two opening this weekend

Photo: Jody Hartley
The venue under the arches is 'a hub for artists, drinkers, thinkers and absolutely anyone who supports independent theatre and hospitality'
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Independent theatre group 53Two is set to launch its brand new bar and arts hub this weekend.

The venue will open at 11am on Sunday 30th May, and local musician Paul Hand will be providing the entertainment from 9pm or an opening night to remember.

The 150 capacity 53Two Bar occupies one of the historic, Grade II listed arches beneath Manchester Central on Watson Street where the 53Two team have created a unique and beautiful new space for the city to drink, chat, create, work and hang out.

Situated in one of the city’s industrial heritage sites, the archways have been carefully restored to create a warm, welcoming and unique space in the heart of the city. 

Photo: Jody Hartley

Light, spacious and steeped in history, the bar has been designed with inclusivity at its heart.

All areas have been utilised to maximum effect whilst still maintaining a spacious layout that provides plenty of room for wheelchairs, prams and social distancing. 

There is a lowered bar space and till for wheelchair access, and all of the tables have been designed at a level to allow for wheelchairs to fit comfortably at the table.

From the simplest wooden beam to gather around with a pint, to modular tables that can be removed from the walls to create even more access, the venue is versatile, accessible and designed for creativity and conversation. 

With a vintage baby grand piano as the centre piece (which everyone is welcome to play) the venue has been created by the 53Two independent theatre team themselves making use of upcycled materials and furniture. Tables of all shapes and sizes are made from reclaimed wood that the team have stained by hand. 

Photo: Jody Hartley

Staff have received sign language training by BSL (British Sign Language) and the team behind the bar have learnt how to sign the bar menu as well as key service phrases.

The venue is fitted with visual fire alarms for additional safety and tactile card reader pads for partially sighted customers.

The various nooks of the archway have been utilised to create cosy snugs complete with their own library of books to read – perfect for hunkering down and finding a moment of peace, catching up over a drink or commandeering for a work meeting.

The natural exposed brick represents Manchester’s industrious ‘worker bee’ identity, as the location was the gateway to the North for traders right at the centre of the cotton trade explosion. Now these same arches will be a new place for Mancunians to work and create with plugs and USB ports aplenty and places to rehearse, perform and share ideas.

Photo: Jody Hartley

At the bar guests can enjoy four draught beers as well as a selection of cans and bottled  beers from local Manchester brewery, Brightside (all of which are vegan and gluten free) and locally produced bar food from HM Pasties.

A day through to night venue, 53Two will be open from 11am serving up coffee and pastries and go right through to 1am at the weekends.

The new 53Two Bar will also operate as an ‘artists members club’ after 11pm when those working in the cultural sector will be able to access the 53Two Bar via a special ‘members entrance’ for a late night post-work drink. 

As a fully inclusive venue, dogs are of course welcome. Albi the theatre dog will be in residence most of the time, with his own bed on site he’ll be there to welcome guests and their furry friends alike.

Photo: Jody Hartley

The second arch will become the city’s first fully accessible theatre space early next year. In the meantime the space will be open as a studio, rehearsal area and private cinema room, where live performances and plays will be streamed.

The 53Two team also plan to broadcast a live-recorded podcast each month, giving a voice to local artists and exploring the city’s cultural scene. 

“We are so excited to be finally throwing the doors open to the 53Two Bar” said Simon Naylor, director of 53Two.

Photo: Jody Hartley

“We’re really proud of what we’ve created here and hope that it will be a hub for artists, drinkers, thinkers and absolutely anyone who supports independent theatre and hospitality.

“The bar is just the first step on our journey to creating an incredible new arts venue for the city – at a time when it is needed most.

“We’ve ensured that the bar embodies our values of inclusivity and will offer a warm welcome to everyone ahead of the theatre opening later in the year. See you on Sunday!” 

53Two will be open Sunday – Wednesday 11am – 11pm; Thursday 11am – 12pm; and Friday – Saturday 11am – 1am.

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