The Decline of the Coffee Bar Club and Rise of the Discotheque

by Brian Stevenson - Images courtesy Danny Hardman

When I first started going to see groups in Manchester, in 1965, there were 3 main venues – the Jungfrau, the Oasis, and the Twisted Wheel. 

The Frau didn’t always have groups on, so I only went there to see specific groups.

The Oasis was open Tues, Fri, Sat & Sun and always had at least one group on, often 2 or 3. If you went early enough at the weekend, you got a free ticket for the following Tuesday (otherwise you had to pay 2/6d).

The Wheel, then in Brazenose St. off Deansgate was more of a ‘blues’ club, where one could expect to see ‘beatnicks’. It also had a reputation for police attention and the sale of ‘drugs’ (purple hearts etc).



The Mitre Hotel 2004

All these clubs had coffee bars that served soft drinks and snacks. If you wanted a pint, you had to get a ‘passout’ – an ink stamp on the back of your hand, and go down to the nearest pub.

If I was at the ‘Frau then I would go in the Mitre, at the side of the Cathedral.

From the Oasis I would go in either the Nags Head or the Rising Sun, lower down Lloyd St. The Sun also had an entrance on Queen St. next to Brazenose St. so you would get people coming in there from the Wheel.

When the Discotheques started to appear in 1966, they were all licensed clubs and so started to attract people away from the coffee bars.

The Bodega (I always thought it was a wine bar !) on Cross St. became the Top of the Town.

Discotakis opened on Oxford St. (I went to the opening night – someone gave me free tickets!), and there was a Rowntrees disco in Hanging Ditch.

These are just the ones that spring to mind. 


 The Rising Sun 2004

The Frau stopped having groups and just had a DJ playing records.

The Wheel had by now moved to Whitworth St. where it was quite rightly famous as a soul / Northen soul venue.

The Oasis closed for refurbishment, I assume they were trying to re-attract lost punters.

After it re-opened, still as a coffee bar, there wasn’t the rush of custom they hoped for and not long after that, it changed its name to Yer Fathers Moustache and then Sloopys (I’m not sure in which order), then closed completely.

By then, I had also defected to the Discos, mainly the Top of the Town. Sometimes groups played, but mostly it was DJs playing records. The up side was that they were open every night (I think) and you didn’t have to go elsewhere for a pint!


The Old Nag's Head 2004

The most expensive beer at Top of the Town was Double Diamond at 2/6d a pint. For £1 I could have 8 pints and get pallatic ! A new fangled drink had recently arrived on the scene and was proving popular - it was called lager.

Other coffee bar clubs that came and went :-

  • The Manchester Cavern opened in Cromford Court, off Market Street, became the Jigsaw, then with the onset of psychedelia - the Magic Village – it was never very popular.
  • The Majestic, on Deansgate became the Birdcage before closing.
  • Heaven and Hell, somewhere near Piccadilly – it always had a reputation for trouble.
  • The 3 Coins in Fountain St. – once connected with Jimmy Savile, mods and pills.


The Abercrombie 2004

The original licensed ‘posh’ club – Tiffanys on Oxford St. – over 21’s – resident group the Nocturnes,
who made a couple of records, and eventually mutated into the New Seekers. I only went there for a special occasion like someones birthday, They had a license till 2 am.

Famous people I’ve stood next to :

Dozy of Dave Dee, Dozy etc. having a pint in the Nags Head.

The week after I saw the Who play the Oasis, they were playing Manchester again but Keith Moon and
Roger Daltry came into the Oasis coffee bar and stood next to me.

At the New Century Hall there was a special screening of Bob Dylans film, ‘Don’t look back’. At one point in the film, Alan Price is explaining to Dylan about Dave Berry, who was sat on the row in front of me.

Groups who let me down :

There seemed to be a lot of publicity about groups not turning up for gigs, but I was only let down twice.
I went to see the Kinks at the Oasis and it was the biggest queue ever. It stretched right up Lloyd St. and round into Albert Square. I pushed in halfway up the queue with some girls I knew. When we eventually got to the door we were told the Kinks weren’t coming but the Pretty Things were on instead. They were OK but I’d only seen them a couple of weeks earlier and they did the same set.

The other group to not show was the Graham Bond Organization, also at the Oasis, but I can’t remember who replaced them.

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