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Fridays: every day is like Judgement Day

Laura Marsden reports from the fag end of bar life and it isn't pretty

Published on July 21st 2008.


Fridays: every day is like Judgement Day

Fridays is the basement bar at the end of Oldham Street. The really ropey end. Near Piccadilly Gardens (of Earthly Delights, as Hieronymus Bosch might have described it). There’s that café called Joe’s where no one goes and that bus stop alongside the amusement arcade? One time round here a bloke cracked me really hard on the arse. The thwaaaaaaaack sound echoed down Oldham Street for weeks and still reverberates through my mind. In dark moments.

There are home printed signs reading, unbelievably, ‘VIP CORNER', in big capitals. Under that it reads 'no swearing, no shouting, no sleeping'.

It’s all pre-NHS, totally raw: men hold bloody dishcloths to their gashed faces and babies suckle on Monster Munch. Women shuffle by carrying their prolapsed wombs in Aldi bags. It’s not a great advert for Oldham. Presuming, that’s where all those buses are headed.

So, Fridays. Why review it? Well, after last week's review of the Adelphi in Liverpool, the Editor of Confidential thought it was time to discover how another venue from Manchester's Britannia Hotel Group did things. So the evil man sent me along to find out. He said, "I'm curious about what goes on inside, it looks mad." He was right, in fact it might just be the most depressing boozer in Manchester.

The first thing that hits you is the pissy stench. Like a nursing home at the height of summer, one that’s run out of potpourri and Febreze. A whole forest of Magic Trees could not mask that vinegary twang: you can almost see it.

Secondly, there is no music. Which is depressing. Surely any music is better than no music? Even Mahler, Scootch or Toploader? But no. Some, unhappy landlords have this bitter, twisted insistence that you can’t please everybody. So, therefore, let’s just please nobody. In fact, fuck it, let’s make everybody feel so brutally alone and in need of escape that they want to commit suicide. Or at least drink themselves to death, which for some pub bosses might seem like a plan.

Or perhaps these landlords possess the nostalgic notion that their punters may gather around singing vaudeville classics, while an aged, preferably blind, fella plays the piano. Or the teaspoons. Maybe a sprightly lass with flaxen hair will get the party started with a few Gracie Fields' numbers. Ooh crumbs! Before you know it, there’ll be Ron Moody, Mark Lester and the rest of Carol Reed’s Oliver! cast banging away on oompa pa drums, with fingerless gloves and twinkly, benevolent expressions. Lovely salt of the earth, working class stuff.

And total bullshit of course.

There is no piano in Fridays. There are no windows either. Or pictures. I buy a Coke from the barman who asks me why I’m going to a pub to drink Coke. I reply, in a feeble mouse voice, "I just like Coke." "It’s not real Coke," says the other barman. He offers to stick a house double in it for £2.50. But I decline. It’s not that bad either, if you like chippy coke.

I find an empty seat and feel pretty conspicuous as I do, the ratio of men to women being about 5:1. Most people are sat alone or in small groups of two or three. My eye is drawn to a larger group in one roped-off corner. Here there are home printed signs reading, unbelievably, ‘VIP CORNER', in big capitals. Under that it reads 'no swearing, no shouting, no sleeping'.

Elsewhere in the pub not everyone seems to be abiding by the rules. I count four old men asleep, alone. I don’t think they are that old. Maybe not even fifty. They just look ancient. Their crumpled up newspaper faces tell a thousand tales of bad luck and disappointment. Hence the drinking I suppose. Why else would you go to Fridays?

On the plus side, there is a big Sky Sports screen, the drinks are cheap and there’s a pool table which is only 50p a game. I briefly fantasize about sending posho cockpipe students here come September. Stick around and listen to them on the phone, "Yar, I’ll meet you at Friday’s. It’s literally, in the trendy Northern Quarter and apparently it’s like, basically, super cheap?" Would that be too cruel?

On my way out, I pass a bloke who’s stood swaying near the pool table, cue in one hand, pint in the other. He tries to speak, but the words come out backwards, his tongue hanging from his mouth like a dead newt. I don’t know what to do or say so I just smile like a total dickwad. He looks momentarily agitated but then forgets and stares glassy eyed at nothing.

I walk upstairs to the exit and pause in front of another poster: ‘To [sic] much sex causes bad eyes'. This confuses me and then I realise my bum feels damp. I’ve sat in a wet patch. What type of wet patch, I’m not sure. Although I have my suspicions.

Is Fridays the worst bar in Manchester? Or maybe it's somewhere at the other end of the spectrum such as Sugar Lounge? Any suggestions?

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36 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

smartiemcrJuly 21st 2008.

I remember going into this place circa 1997 when I was about 17! It used to blast out cheesy dance music on a Friday and Saturday night, and was a safe bet for those worried about being ID'd as the bouncers didn't seem to care! I'm wondering whether it was equally bad in 1997 or whether my tastes have just changed a lot over the years...

GordoJuly 21st 2008.

Him, he alway's has a go at Gordos grammer the arse.

AnonymousJuly 21st 2008.

Yup, this is illiterate nonsense; apostrophes and commas strewn hither and thither.Get it sorted.

AnonymousJuly 21st 2008.

No doubt I'll be in for some verbal, but there's something inherently evil about the boozers along and around Oldham st., whether or not it's the place or the people i wouldn't like to say. But since mostly all the pubs in New Cross/New Islington have shut (with the exception of that listed one that Carol AinsCOW refuses to repair), What else is there for Manchester's very own 'Les Miserables'.

GordoJuly 21st 2008.

fcuk off the lot of you

ancoats girlJuly 21st 2008.

Since the smoking ban, it's been interesting to get a glimpse of many a bar's clientele while they're outside for a fag. I work near here and I find Friday's either depressing or amusing, depending on my mood. You often see people outside bleeding, shouting or giving a statement to the police (and sometimes all at the same time...) I've also seen a patron try to kick in the bookmaker's window next door. Nice.

HelenJuly 21st 2008.

Has Manchester Confidential sacked its sub-editor? The amount of typos and errors in this review is shocking!

Jay-ZJuly 21st 2008.

After going to that Ithaca which was all right how do I book the VIP section here next time?

EditorialJuly 21st 2008.

Oops sorry Mat, please re-post. We were removing the apostrophes from Fridays and therefore working on the story. You must have posted then, please put it back on. Apologies once more.

AnonymousJuly 21st 2008.

Absolutely hate the Friday's crowd, stinking up uhe streets like **** covered pidgeons - Oldham St should be amazing and in parts it is but it's ruined by skanky pubs at both ends. Lets get rid and make it a nice place from start to end.Don't try and say Sugar Lounge is any better though, because that's just full of scumbags too, who are better dressed and have more money. Twat fest if you ask me.

Eats, shoots and leavesJuly 21st 2008.

If you want to publish incorrect English that's your choice...

DeanJuly 21st 2008.

Yeah...send the basically, literally, actually crew down there! They will think its post ironic.

Thoroughbred MancJuly 21st 2008.

Oh fer cryin' out loud! What is it with the ever-present grammar police! Laura, you made me giggle with your witty observations. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and in particular, its conversational style: the editorial team are quite right to defend its rhythm. There's a musicality I particularly appreciate in writing. Gawd only knows what the grammar police would make of a William Faulkner novel. Every house has its own style. I tend to abide by the Guardian's Stylebook (don't hate me), but that doesn't make other houses 'wrong' or stop me enjoying them. Chill out. While you're nit-picking the grammar, you're missing the point.

David SJuly 21st 2008.

I leave closeby to Friday's bar, which is simply the most disgusting bar in the City! The place should be condemned and shut down by the Council. It's also an embarassment to our great and proud city of Manchester. This is the kind of first 'sad' impression that visitors get arriving in the City. Drunks, criminals, the disfunctional, all swearing and urinating down Back Piccadilly. It's like something out of the 1930's depression... Do these people wash their hands when they go to the toilet? Disgusting... no wonder people are dieing in hospitals, it's the germs that are being brought in.

AnonymousJuly 21st 2008.

Try another rummage through this passage and you may come up trumps."Presuming, that’s where all those buses are headed.So, Fridays. Why review it? Well, after last week's review of the Liverpool Adelphi, the Editor of Confidential, thought it was time to discover how another Britannia Hotel Group venue did things."

beefyJuly 21st 2008.

I've tried with the Unicorn on Thomas Street many times. When I first found it, I went in, having been misguided by the exterior and convinced it could be a hidden gem. I was wrong. Me and my friends were called 'tourists', and yet I still insisted that we went back the following week. It was back in the old days of smoking, and it was like drinking in a smelly cloud surround by old scallies sucking their dentures in and out in what can only be presumed a bid to either amuse or intimidate us. We left after one very strange pint of John Smiths, and that was that.I then went back with a friend in June for the first time in a couple of years. With a major Conran development and the Birchin behind, one would think that residents would have taken the Unicorn into their hearts as a classic city centre hostelry, away from the pretence of other places in the Northern Quarter, and the pub and clientele would be all the better for it. Wrong. It was cack, and I can honestly say that I will only return once it has had a change of ownership and the whole place is just a bit... better. Because as it is, it's an absolute blot on the ever decreasing pub landscape in town, and an absolute wasted opportunity by the owners to have one of the best pubs in town.

EditorialJuly 21st 2008.

Hey anonymous, I think you'll find it's Eats, Shoots & Leaves on the front cover of that book, not Eats, shoots and leaves. Thing is that English is a disciplined but fluid language where the rhythm can dictate the words, especially when written in a conversational tone as is the case with this review. So we'll keep our version thanks.

MatJuly 21st 2008.

Ah! Fair enough... I was getting paranoid there. What I said was - I'm less worried by the grammar and spelling than the sneering tone. If you're going to have another go at the Britannia Group you should aim it at the management and not the clientele. How about an exposé on how they have allowed London Road Fire Station to rot for twenty-odd years?

eugeneJuly 21st 2008.

Whoa whoa, fridays is an institution! Every great city has areas for everyone, and it really does have to be seen to be believed...its No.1 on Manchester's rough bar crawl!

AnonymousJuly 21st 2008.

i tried to like the english lounge. i live just round the corner and thought it would be better than wanky walrus. wrong. i ended up sat next to a load of middle aged builders from rochdale who were doing poppers. aces.

credit crunchJuly 21st 2008.

cheap booze though!

ShaJuly 21st 2008.

Mat, this isn't sneering. It's called reportage. It's not played for laughs either. I've often wondered what goes on in there - with terror - as I've been sized up by the smoking men outside. Although now like Jim I feel I want to take a trip inside. Maybe not sit down though.

Hattie JacquesJuly 21st 2008.

Brilliant piece. 'It’s all pre-NHS, totally raw: men hold bloody dishcloths to their gashed faces and babies suckle on Monster Munch. Women shuffle by carrying their prolapsed wombs in Aldi bags.' Best, bestest even though I have no idea what prolapsed means.

Fridays regularJuly 21st 2008.

'Hic. **** off. Do you wanna fight?'

JenJuly 21st 2008.

Totally agree with Helen and Anonymous I'm afraid

MatJuly 21st 2008.

Why was my comment deleted?

Jim BarlowJuly 21st 2008.

I had a rummage through that sentence and I presume you mean the comma after Confidential. Maybe the Britannia Hotel Group is a problem too but that's what they're called. The first sentence is correct because it fits with the context of the previous passage. On another note the review has made me want to go and have a look. If there are any genuine drinking dens left in this city I'm there. Good writing otherwise I reckon.

David SJuly 21st 2008.

David S says..“ I live closeby to Friday's bar, which is simply the most disgusting bar in the City! The place should be condemned and shut down by the Council. It's also an embarassment to our great and proud city of Manchester. This is the kind of first 'sad' impression that visitors get arriving in the City. Drunks, criminals, the disfunctional, all swearing and urinating down Back Piccadilly. It's like something out of the 1930's depression... Do these people wash their hands when they go to the toilet? Disgusting... no wonder people are dieing in hospitals, it's the germs that are being brought in.

Mark DodsonJuly 21st 2008.

Hey Gordo, I wish I could tell my readers to do that if they complain

Eats, shoots and leavesJuly 21st 2008.

'Most people are sat alone or in small groups of two or three'. I think you mean they are sitting alone.'On my way out, I pass a bloke who’s stood swaying near the pool table'.I think you mean he's standing swaying.Very worrying that you are scratching your head about the mistakes Editorial, perhaps you need to go back to school....

rufus t. fireflyJuly 21st 2008.

Fridays, the club in Didsbury (yeah right, it's actually Northenden) opened in 1980! Then it was new and dare I say it quite posh, compared to Tiffany's, Fagin's etc. Unfortunately nearly 30 years on and Brittannia bars havn't changed (not even the carpets I think in some cases) Oldham Street in its day used to be superb but it has been left to rot. Should be demolished but we'd probably get another goddam awful Printworks in it's place.

Fridays regularJuly 21st 2008.

'Hic. **** off. Do you wanna fight?'

Agent57July 21st 2008.

Its a hole, that much is certain, but you have to remember that we need places like this otherwise there's no places for those disappointed and down and out guys (and their unfortunate gals) to go, yes?

EditorialJuly 21st 2008.

Also while we had made a mistake with the name Fridays not Friday's plus a couple of other tiny bits and bobs we're scratching our heads a little about all those other mistakes. Then again it's late and we've been in Fridays since 11am and might still have missed them. Thanks for pointing out the errors though.

Kanye WestJuly 21st 2008.

I've been there. It's great, the Foster's is excellent. Maybe I could escort Ms Marsden next time. I promise to take her to the VIP bit as well and I promise to not fall asleep.

AnonymousJune 16th 2013.

still there amazingly

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