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235 is one

Natasha Periyan asks whether Manchester 235 has become a safe bet?

Published on October 26th 2007.

235 is one

Today – Friday 26 October - is Manchester 235's first Birthday. But, instead of the usual mix of screaming toddlers, competitive mums and squabbling over party bags, 235's big bash will be an altogether different affair. Champagne and cocktails will be flowing and all guests will be entered into a prize draw to bag something a bit more exciting than a tube of Smarties. Managing Director, Andy Orr is excited by the event: ''We're baking a six foot cake, in a four foot oven so it remains to be seen quite how you do that. The highlight of the entertainment will be a seventeen piece swing band in the bar and that will be as much of a challenge as the six foot cake''.

We wanted to break the mould of what a casino is. The statistics show that only 3% of the population have ever visited one so we wanted to target the other 97%, who might have a skewed sense of what a casino is like.

These ambitious birthday plans are reflected in the ethos of the casino as a whole. Big ideas are the hallmark of 235: ''We wanted to break the mould of what a casino is. The statistics show that only 3% of the population have ever visited one so we wanted to target the other 97%, who might have a skewed sense of what a casino is like. Manchester 235 is about a good night out more than anything else''.

This is no seedy backstreet haunt. Instead, when walking around the casino, situated in a former warehouse building on Watson Street, Manchester and Monaco seem to have collided to spectacular effect – well almost. A £150,000 glittering black glass chandelier hangs in the boardroom, which also doubles as a private dining area, and all the fixtures and fittings are bespoke.

Despite this, Manchester 235 has had its teething troubles over the past year. ''Up until 1 September the advertising laws meant that we couldn't say we were a casino'', Andy explains. ''We couldn't say where we were or include a phone number which is fairly fundamental to advertising''. Now, however, the casino boasts over fifty thousand members, covering a wide spectrum of interests: ''There isn't a concept of a typical member. I stood in the bar on Saturday night and there were people in from the Hilton in dinner suits and dresses, people from Coronation Street and some footballers. But in the corner there were also some kids in their early twenties, casually dressed, having a couple of drinks. Our oldest member is 90 so we have a real breadth of clientele''.

There are certainly plenty of facilities to cater for this eclectic client base, with two restaurants on site. There is an Italian restaurant, Numero, open to non-members but it is Linen, Manchester 235's members-only restaurant, serving Modern British cuisine, that's the real draw: “Linen is a really stunning space. I think the biggest challenge with it is that it's something very special and we've had to work hard to match service to the quality of food, but I think we've done that.”

The quality of the casino's live acts is something which, for Andy, sets it apart from other venues: ''We will never ever - so long as I draw breath - put a fat pub singer on to imitate Robbie Williams, I'll leave that to the competition. We realise that with entertainment you get what you pay for. So we've invested in it to make sure that we get genuine performers''. The casino's live lounge, and its intimate space has played host to everything from burlesque to up and coming bands.

Andy has no intention to allow Manchester 235 to stand still. Plans are afoot to produce an old-school style variety show complete with comedians and magicians, with the hope to get it televised. ''This year has seen huge growth, next year is very much about taking us forward. Now we want to ripple out to Liverpool, Leeds and Stoke and establish a reputation in those areas''.

Time to crack open the champagne then, even if 235 is underage…by 17 years.

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