Independent bars group expands with two new Northern Quarter openings

Venue GM Will Alston, left, and Escapism Bars co-founder Phil Harrison

Two new bars are set to open in Manchester’s Oldham Street next month in an investment by independent Leeds-based group, Escapism Bars.

Launching under The Mean Eyed Cat and Tiki Hideaway brands, the new bars are set to appeal to students, after-work drinkers, and late-night party seekers.

Founded in 2004 by Phil and Mel Harrison, Escapism Bars focuses on fun and fiery party spaces in city centres. The group runs seven venues in Leeds, two venues in Liverpool, and plans to expand into Nottingham and Sheffield.

The new bar launches come at a pivotal time for Manchester. Recently, a plan to support the recovery of the city’s night time economy was launched by Mayor Andy Burnham to ensure the success of the sector – which employs around 464,000 people in the Greater Manchester region.

The new bars will employ 20 people, giving a boost to the city’s hospitality workforce.

The Mean-Eyed Cat is a deep south-themed dive bar that offers no catch, free pizzas with drink purchases. Well known for its wild party games and cocktails, The Mean-Eyed Cat plans to revamp the far end of Oldham Street, providing a seamless link between two of the most exciting neighbourhoods in Manchester city centre – the Northern Quarter and Ancoats. The dive bar is also home to the much-loved Roll the Dice game where drinkers can roll a six and get their round for free every time.

Meanwhile, sister bar Tiki Hideaway will open downstairs. The Hawaiian-themed rum shack will have a fun and friendly atmosphere with chilled-out Caribbean-inspired cocktails. The bar, which also has venues in Leeds and Liverpool, is famous for its Flaming Zombie serve, providing perfect opportunities for social media content.

Both The Mean-Eyed Cat and Tiki Hideaway are open until late in Leeds and plan to have the same opening hours in the Manchester venue.

Grant Dexter, managing director at Escapism Bars, said: “With many hospitality firms and venues feeling the pinch due to the energy crisis and cost of living challenges, it’s exciting to be able to open these two new venues in this thriving area in Manchester.

‘’We opened The Mean-Eyed Cat in Leeds in 2004, and it has stood the test of time, attracting students, after-work drinkers, party goers and anyone that likes to let their hair down. We can’t wait to see what Manchester’s legendary revellers make of the venues.”

Escapism Bars’ expected turnover for the current financial year 22/23 is £6.6m (net), and the group expects to continue to grow through new initiatives within the business. It credits its growth to its investment in a strong sales team and a successful internal training programme which has qualified 102 bartenders, 29 supervisors, seven managers and four team promotions to HQ.

The Mean-Eyed Cat and Tiki Hideaway are scheduled to open on Oldham Street on September 28.