The Great Reopening: here's where you can eat and drink without a booking

The best walk-ins in Greater Manchester, plus the rest of our Monday briefing

Good morning Millers and welcome to this week’s Mill briefing. The Great Reopening is upon us and the weather looks like it’s going to be … not bad at all. It’s cold today, but the Met Office forecasts no significant rainfall this week. Fingers crossed.

If you missed our weekend read, it was a fantastic piece about the life and death of Wigan Casino. You can read it here.

This week’s weather

The location of this forecast is Manchester and it’s sourced from the Met Office.

The big story: Opening up

Top line: The day has come. Non-essential retail, gyms, hairdressers and outdoor hospitality are re-opening today across England, marking a significant moment in the country’s move out of lockdown. High streets across Greater Manchester will be buzzing this week like they haven’t for many months, and thousands of small business owners will be hoping for a massive rush of custom that can start to make up for their losses during the pandemic.

The details: There are a number of designated outdoor dining and drinking areas in the city centre, including St Ann’s Square, Blossom Street, Edge Street, and Stevenson Square. Thomas Street, which was pedestrianised last May, will also see a number of venues reopen with outdoor seating.

  • Outdoor licenses will play a key role in helping businesses get back on their feet — City Council Licensing has been working with businesses in partnership with the City Centre Management Company CityCo to plan outdoor areas that wouldn’t normally be legal without special licensing arrangements.

  • Manchester City Council has closed parking bays, waived license fees for tables and chairs and done the legal paperwork to pedestrianise streets across the city.

City-centre councillor Jon-Connor Lyons told The Mill: “Whilst the cost is huge, the cost of doing nothing would be far greater and I'd like to thank all those who've worked so hard to get to where we are today.”

  • He says he’s “incredibly excited about being able to see my friends” and adds: “I know I'm not alone in saying I cannot wait to be able to sit outside in Manchester’s Gay Village with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc!”

The catch? It’s really difficult for most hospitality businesses to break even just on the trade they can do outdoors, let alone turn a decent profit. And that’s before you factor in the Manchester weather. Jonny Heyes, who owns Common Bar and Port Street Beer House in the Northern Quarter, told The Mill:

Right up until June or whenever it is we’re reopening, we’re just going to be in constant flux. The next three or four months is going to be so unpredictable for us because we’re going to be so dependant on the weather.

Heyes says he is “very excited” and his team is “raring to go”.

Scroll down for our list of recommended eating and drinking spots that you don’t have to have a booking for…

Covid-19 update

  • Case rates: The news on case rates has been getting better and better in the past week as the number of new cases falls increasingly fast. The Greater Manchester rate is now 46.4, down 39.9% in a week, the lowest rate we have seen since early September. The rate across England is now just 27.9, down 36%.

  • Hospitals: Only 34 patients were admitted to GM hospitals with Covid-19 last week, down from 53 the week before. There are 48 patients with Covid in critical care across all our hospitals, which is down from a peak of 170 in February, and there are 219 Covid patients in regular wards.

  • Vaccinations: 1.2 million residents in Greater Manchester (that’s 51% of adults) have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine, and 9% have received both. Amazingly, 94% of over-70s have had their first dose, and 33% have had both. See the breakdowns in the graphic below, which were updated last Wednesday.

Snapshot: Community spirit in Levy

Last week James Whittaker, owner of The Gherkin, a vegetarian bar and bistro in Levenshulme, posted photographs of a ‘Kindness Kabinet’ on Facebook. The cabinet’s predecessor was a ‘kindness box’ which was at the mercy of the elements — so a cabinet was built to replace it. James told us that the cabinet was inspired by the community spirit seen in Yorkshire’s Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. James is keen to stress that it’s not a food bank — anyone can help themselves — but people are welcome to donate items.

One of our big aims is to spread great community ideas around Greater Manchester. If you know of something happening in your area, please email or tag us @manchestermill on Twitter.

Home of the week

For £850 a month you can live in this beautiful Victorian conversion in Didsbury. The 1-bed flat was posted in a student Facebook group last week…

Five stories worth reading

1. New outdoor theatre

Manchester is getting a new outdoor theatre this summer, it was announced last week. It will present productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and is the brainchild of HOME, next to which it will be built on an 80,000 sq ft future development site on First Street.

2. Can independent shops bounce back?

“People were at home, cooking three meals a day. They weren’t buying lunch in the city centre, or dinner on their way home. “ Mohammed Shafiq and his son Hammaad, who run Freshsave groceries in Didsbury tell the Guardian about the impact the pandemic had on their business, in a piece that takes a look at independent shops across the country.

3. Hilton in Rochdale

Rochdale is getting its own Hilton hotel, the MEN reports. It will span 55,000 sq ft over seven floors and is part of a joint venture between Genr8 Developments and Kajima. Mike Smith from Genr8 Developments told the MEN: "This is another significant step forward in the wider regeneration of Rochdale.”

4. Wigan homes going fast

“Wigan has been crowned the fastest-moving property market in England and Wales, with homes typically selling in less than a month,” Wigan Today reports. Salford is tied for second place in the list calculated by the property website Zoopla, alongside Redditch, Knowsley, Sheffield and Medway.

5. Seeing, unbelieving

“A large spaceship hovering above Manchester should have been seen by tens of thousands of people.” With a decline in UFO and ghosts sightings over the years, Stuart Walton asks in this 2013 Aeon Magazine piece if we’ve become more discerning or afraid to trust ourselves.

Letters to the editor

What a brilliantly written, evocative, article (‘It was like there was magic built into the walls’). I've only ever 'heard' of Northern Soul, not being from round here, and didn't 'get' what was so special about it. This article just made a great lump in my throat appear and a pointless wish that I had known about it and participated.  Caroline Jackson, Ancoats

My first date with my wife Lynne was at the Monday night Soul club as 16-year-olds on the 6th May 1974. We sat in a corner and kissed all night barely exchanging a word — never once did we get up to dance. We are still together 47 years later. Damian Walker, Wigan

Regarding your excellent recent report about the office market in Manchester city centre (‘“Flight to quality” or ruinous collapse? Inside the Manchester office market’), I have heard multiple reports about “record rents” in Manchester in the past few months. I would remind people who don’t work in this industry that headline rents can be a very misleading figure because landlords often give tenants free periods at the start of their leases that materially reduce the amount being paid over the term of the lease. Phil Smith, Stockport

Things to do

Podcast | Manchester Museum’s latest podcast episode asks: Do museums care about young people? Dr Sadia Habib talks to young members of the Our Shared Cultural Heritage project (OSCH) about heritage and belonging. Listen on Spotify or on the Manchester Museum website.

Webinar | City of Trees’ third Natural World webinar will be delving into the world of blossoms on Wednesday evening. They’ll be joined by Rachel Webster, Curator of Botany at Manchester Museum. If you’d like to attend, please register in advance.

Watch | On Tuesday, HOME is showing Veins of the World, directed by Byambasuren Davaa. Viewers will be transported to the Mongolian steppe.

  • “Following the sudden death of the leader of a campaign against mining companies who are destroying the habitat on which they depend, his eleven-year-old son steps up to carry on his David vs Goliath fight.”

Festival | The Old Courts Digital Festival is running this Thursday to Sunday. They’ll be streaming music, comedy and family shows straight to your screens. Keep an eye out here.

Top 10 outdoor walk-ins

To celebrate the reopening of hospitality venues, we’ve made a list of places serving food and drink where no booking is required. Don’t forget to wrap up and bring your best brolly just in case.

  1. Common, Northern Quarter: Grab a slice of the famously monstrous Nell’s Pizza and an IPA in a milk bottle.

  2. The Con Club, Altrincham: Order yourself a relaxed brunch on their terrace, or sit back with a glass of wine in the evening under their rooftop tipi.

  3. Coach and Horses Pub, Oldham: It’s table service only in the pub garden and you’ll need to download an app to order food and drink.

  4. Hip Hop Chip Shop, Ancoats: We’ll be angling for a plate of Feastie Boys or Plant-Tas-Tic Vegan Fish, but expect this one to be very popular.

  5. Another Heart to Feed, West Didsbury: Grab a bottle of wine, a latte, some tasty pastries or a lunchtime treat. They’re serving ‘through the hatch’.

  6. Ezra and Gil, Northern Quarter: If you fancy Oreo French Toast or a poke-style bowl, head over to Hilton Street. They’re operating on a first-come-first-served basis, so quick sticks.

  7. The Wilton Arms, Radcliffe: Sip on a pint of Crystal Bitter or Manchester Brown Ale.

  8. All The Shapes, Prestwich: Brunch, bar snacks and drinks aplenty here. Fancy a Banh Mi Sub or hot salt beef? You’ll find them here.

  9. The Grapes, Bamford: Open from 12 noon til “too cold, wet or dark”. Choose from their menu of pub classics and wash it down with a cold beer.

  10. The Bank, Delph: They’re serving a garden menu, as well as cocktails and soft drinks.

Know of great places we should recommend in future briefings? Please get in touch: