With so much going on above ground in Manchester, opening a new bar can be tricky, and with space at such a premium, sometimes you have to dig a little deeper and create it yourself rather than wait for it to appear. We sent Kevin Benson 60 feet beneath Bow Lane to find out more about new pool and cocktail bar, 17 Below.
The term hidden gem is one that’s used far too often as the place or thing being described is usually far from hidden. However, it’s a perfect description of one of Manchester’s newest cocktail bars – 17 Below.
Situated 60 feet beneath the entrance to Dogs n Dough, this 80’s inspired pool and cocktail bar is the coming together of two well known faces on the Manchester bar scene, James Black and Ian Morgan, and their passion for arcades and American pool. Ian is one of the men behind the likes of Socio Rehab and Corridor, to name but two.
“We had this big space down here and always wanted to do something with it,” explains James as I look round the dimly lit room.
There is definitely a Colour of Money vibe going on here – neon signage, arcade machines and two plush looking pool tables. I’m half expecting Paul Newman to step out from behind the bar.
“Ian was a bit of a pool shark back in the day, used to play at Riley’s a lot,” adds James.
“I’m sort of semi-retired now”, says Ian.
17 Below came about after James and Ian surmised that Manchester needed somewhere decent to play pool. Somewhere that provided a more relaxed, take-your-time approach to a night out, where people can sit comfortably and chat with their mates without being bumped into every five seconds.
“We hope there is something for everyone here. We don’t have any pretentions. We just want people to appreciate the arcades and the pool tables,” says James.
“I mean, a lot of people miss that decade so we’re giving them that bit of that nostalgia,” adds Ian.
There is certainly a lot of attention to detail here. The pool tables are made with some of the finest cloth in the world and they use the same balls as in the Mosconi Cup. The arcade machines, all custom built and brand new, blend in nicely with the neon signs and dimly-lit space, it almost harks back to the Fab Cafe but without the Daaleks and the sticky floors.
With the Northern Quarter reaching saturation point however, lease notices are coming down as quickly as they’re going up and competition is fierce. With this in mind, is it a good time to open up a new bar?
“Any time is good to open a business in Manchester. My principle has always been to open somewhere that people actually want to come and spend time in. I think if you do something well and let it grow organically, then eventually it will work,” explains Ian.
17 Bow Lane (just off Cross Street), Manchester M2 4JN
Open Thursday-Saturday 5pm – 1am