Manchester continues to develop at an alarming rate and people flock to live here, attracted by our lively nightlife scene and staggeringly good choice of bars and restaurants. However, our hospitality sector is under immense strain. Almost 20 food and drink businesses (that we know of) announced their closure in January 2023.
The UK’s leading corporate rescue and recovery practice, Begbies Traynor last week issued a sobering Red Flag Alert report on the state of UK businesses. It disclosed that almost 20,000 hospitality businesses in the UK were ‘in significant financial distress’. Furthermore, Big Hospitality reported recently that 1,611 licensed premises were lost in the UK in the fourth quarter of 2022 – a 1.6% drop in just three months.
The UK it seems is staring down the barrel of a recession. Energy costs at completely unmanageable levels, business rates and inflation at record highs, the rapidly increasing cost of essentials like vegetable oil, pasta, milk and tea, and rising workforce costs, are all combining into a cashflow problem that would make the most savvy of accountants admit defeat. With energy bills for hospitality set to double in April as the government’s support comes to an end, it’s no wonder businesses are tapping out left right and centre.
All of these factors are affecting individuals as well as businesses. Many people’s disposable incomes simply swallowed up by utility bills the size of skyscrapers. It’s difficult to put a positive spin on things.
But at Finest we do try to stay positive and we want to pay our respects to the venues we lost this January and encourage you to keep supporting those that remain.
Student favourite Font announced that recent cost increases had become insurmountable for them and closed after 22 years. It has confirmed its Chorlton branch will remain open.
Scottish-Indian fusion restaurant ROTI closed its flagship Chorlton branch and its pop up at Didsbury’s Boiler Room which is now permanently closed as a pub too. ROTI’s Sale venue remains open so get yourself down there for a haggis pakora and lets hope it doesn’t go the same way.
Two Todmorden favourites, the colourful dining spot Yakumama famous for its vegetarian small plates, announced it would be moving out of its home in the Old Co-op building. Meanwhile, acclaimed fine dining spot The White Rabbit also announced it too would be closing with owners Robyn and David saying, “Since we opened in October 2015 we have weathered so much in Todmorden. Floods, harsh winters, covid the list goes on, but [it] ends with the cost of living. As so many others in our industry we simply can’t outrun the rising costs anymore. We need to do what’s right in business and for us.”
Over in the village, though Kampus continues to survive and thrive, One Canal Street (once known as Taurus before trying a number of different approaches on for size) also announced it would be no more. Owners Lisa Kettle and Danielle Condron announced their other venue The Bridge Pub and Dining in Sale would also close.
Atkinsons Coffee and Half Dozen Other both trading at Mackie Mayor called in the removal vans. Atkinsons coffee will still be brewed on site by the new owner of the Mackie Mayor coffee shop Eagle Street Coffee, while Half Dozen Other have announced a new opening in Red Bank so there is a silver lining for those businesses.
Over in Altrincham, American diner influenced casual restaurants Mustard announced they would be grilling their last hotdogs in both Altrincham and Sale. Meanwhile, community minded food and drink spot One Central announced it would close on 16 January saying “We have always been on borrowed time with our lease… We never expected to flourish into so much more [and] we’re so grateful you made that happen. However, like so many others, the recent increase in rent, rates, electricity has had a huge impact, especially when heating [and] lighting an outdoor venue.” The team urged its customers to show its support for Mexican food spot Choza which would be moving into the terrace area, and local baker The Biscuit Tin who would be popping up every Friday.
Another long standing coffee shop, the family-run, 25-year strong Cafe Metro, said farewell to its spot on high street due to the landlord deciding to redevelop the site. They said, “Although we have looked to relocate we have not been able to find premises that come close to enabling us to offer our customers the same service and pricing.” Just down the road on Fountain Street, pie shop of dreams Ate Days a Week announced it couldn’t make it work in the city centre any longer and would be focusing on its Stockport venues including Notion which is rebranding as modern pizza parlour.
On the subject of pies, another of our faves Baldy’s Pies in Wigan announced it would be closing its Clayton street shop on Sunday 19 February but would be continuing to roll out some of the greatest pies ever in the form of a non-public facing dark kitchen. Keep an eye on socials for ways to get your mitts on those pies in future.
Tiny bagel pop up Breadflower announced it would be leaving a bagel shaped hole in our lives as the team had decided to prioritise other things for a bit.
Ramsbottom lost one of the pillars of its dining scene last year as Baratxuri made a shock announcement it would close in the North Manchester town but all hope was not lost as it continued to bring hot Txuleton steak action to Exhibition in the city centre. Rammy locals still had its sister restaurant Levanter to enjoy and it expanded into the former Baratxuri site to make room for more drinkers but unfortunately this idea has now been put on ice, ‘hopefully just for winter’ with the former Baratxuri side of the venue closed again for now.
Shops have not been safe from the scythe either with two extremely strong Northern Quarter retailers scaling back their operations. Longstanding quirky gift shop Oklahoma announced its bricks and mortar venue would close but it would continue to trade via its online shop – the willy socks are safe for now. Meanwhile, plant specialists Flourish announced they would close their NQ venue and focus only on the Deansgate Square store from now on.
Lastly, our cultural venues are also at risk, suffering from the same financial woes as hospitality venues. This week, Oldham’s much loved Coliseum theatre posted a heartbreaking statement to social media that it would be cancelling all events from Sunday 26 March 2023, including its Spring-Summer programme and the 2023-24 pantomime Sleeping Beauty. The Coliseum stated it will no longer be part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio from 1 April 2023, and its teams have been working hard to find a solution to this reduction in funding.For now, it says, the current financial situation is not sustainable for the season as planned and they are asking people to be patient as they work through issuing refunds.
We speak to restaurant and bar owners every week who are thrilled to be packed out with people brightening up these grim winter months with a bit of food and drink. You really are keeping these businesses afloat and they value your custom more than ever. So please don’t stop because the January deals are over. If you can afford to, swerve the massive chains and go and visit your local indie restaurant, cafe, or bar. You’ll get a genuinely warm welcome and you might actually save them from closure.
February is a notoriously bleak month for businesses, let’s make foodie February a thing and go out for dinner as much as we can this month.