Sometimes it can seem like Manchester is drowning in trendy bars and clubs, but the truth is that most of them are pretty similar. Mancunians have two main choices; you can go for cheap drinks in a nightclub with a sticky floor, or head to a slightly pretentious venue that serves cocktails with too much ice. But what about if you just want a decently-priced drink in a cosy environment? That might be a little bit harder to find, but thanks to Lock 91, it is definitely there. Lock 91 is a house on the canal that has been converted into a bar, and it is unique, cosy, friendly and – shock! – good value for money. We’ll forgive you if you don’t believe us; after all, it is rare for a bar to tick so many boxes.
Located above a 19th century lock, the building used to be the home of the lock keeper and his family. In recent years the venue has been restored with a modern edge, but from the outside it still looks like someone’s peaceful cottage. When you walk inside, the illusion of a cottage disappears and you are confronted by a cosy bar with a wide range of spirits and beers. Each room in the building has a slightly different theme; as well as the cosy bar, there is also a Jack Daniel’s themed pool room with a balcony, an outdoor area with a barbecue and a luxurious green nightclub-like room with dimmed lights. Basically, it can cater to all your drinking needs. You want to sit outside with a cider on a sunny day? Go to Lock 91. You want to dance the night away sipping pretty pink cocktails? Go to Lock 91. You want a pint in a cosy room while it rains outside? Oh would you look at that- go to Lock 91.
Music: House, Commercial, Pop, Live, RnB
Dress Code: Smart/Casual
Train Station: Deansgate
Address: Lock 91, Lock Keeper's Cottage, Manchester, M3 4QL
Music-wise, you can expect the standard sounds of Deansgate in Lock 91; House with some poppy chart music mixed in. It isn’t anything original or unique, but it gets people up on their feet and dancing – and anyway, who doesn’t like a bit of Craig David? Don’t lie to yourself; you know how catchy his songs are. However, the best part of the night was definitely the drinks. Lock 91 has a wide range of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails so everyone will be able to find a drink that they genuinely love. The bartenders talk you through the drinks as they make them, which is very interesting – but the drinks are pretty strong, so there’s a good chance that you’ll forget everything you were told anyway. Worth it, though; the drinks are slightly cheaper than the other bars in Deansgate, and they taste great.
The scene in Lock 91 is different depending on when you go. If you go on a weekday, you can expect a relaxed vibe with a small group of friendly beer-drinkers in their 30s. If you go on a weekend, you can expect a club scene with crowds of students and hipsters; you will literally be surrounded by a sea of beanie hats and girls in 90s style chokers. The one thing that is consistent, though, is the service and the entertainment. All the bartenders are brilliant and there is always something to do; there are pool tables, dart boards and even on occasion, live music. However, Lock 91 is more than just a bar; it is also a private hire space, so you should ring in advance to make sure that the venue is open to the public on the day that you want to go. Alternatively, you could just turn up and try to blag that you are part of the Nandos crew on their staff night out – although we are not guaranteeing that this will work. In fact, it probably won’t.
Lock 91 offers something a little different to most bars in Manchester, and it has a lot of personality. We love the venue, we love the view – and most importantly, we love the varied and cheap drinks menu. If you go during the week there are often great deals on, too; if you buy a large glass of wine you get the rest of the bottle free. Ahh, life is good at Lock 91. Finally, here’s our advice for the charmers out there; if you visit the venue with a date, make sure you have a drink on the balcony overlooking the canal. You will seriously impress them with the beautiful view and romantic setting, and you can even pretend that you discovered it yourself. Cheeky.