Way back when I was young, pubs used to shut at 10:30pm, 11:00pm on Friday and Saturday nights, and 10:pm on Sundays… yes really. The also only opened over the lunchtime, closed for the afternoon and opened at 6:00pm for the evening… I’m not making this up.
However, in Manchester, there were places you could go on to and find alcohol being served; sometimes it was a club like ‘Ray’s Place’. I’ve used the name in several of my stories, it’s become a music venue in Easthope in my fictional world. Ray’s place was upstairs, a long, dingy, raggedy carpeted staircase, leading to a small landing with a ticket office to get in. When you bought a ticket it allowed you a meal, that’s how they got round the licensing laws. The meal was chicken and chips in a basket… and maybe there was a burger and chips on offer too. There was a dimly lit bar, a dance floor and music playing… what more did anyone need?
There were two other clubs, The Edinburgh and The Winston – I can’t now remember which name attached to which; one was a West Indian Club in Moss Side, which had brilliant music, a limited bar – rum or canned lager and hot patties and sticking plasters for sale. The other was a tall old building on Oxford Road, marooned on a derelict wasteland – either the site was being redeveloped or was left over from the war and bomb damage. This was a more sinister place, a large drinking hall with a long bar propping up a variety of drunks and derelicts. The toilet was in the ballroom, with long gold curtains hanging from ceiling to floor and the silver globe still attached to the ceiling although mercifully not revolving. The single lavatory was on a stage at the end of the room, and I always felt very vulnerable when using it, in the vast empty place.
One of our favourite in-town places was the Continental Club. The Conti was down a flight of stairs and had a bar at one end and a juke-box at the other. The toilets were beyond description, but if I saw Wellington boots or galoshes would have been an advantage, you’ll get my meaning. We must have spent so many nights there, dancing and drinking, and laughing and laughing!
Later, when I was working at Manchester Airport, we used to meet after my late shifts at The Didsbury Lodge Hotel. The manager/owner was a fat, red-faced, silent man called Bill. His girlfriend whose name I have forgotten was a lovely, bubbly, blond girl and I always felt a little sorry for her. She had such high hopes of her relationship with Bill, but he was never going to leave his wife for her, and he seemed a ghastly man anyway. Another Bill frequented the Didsbury, he was born on 11th November he told me and had been given a middle name to honour one of the British generals… Douglas maybe or Herbert? Because the Didsbury was a better class than some of the other drinking places, occasionally celebrities would join us at the bar… Dave Allen, the comedian, and Karl Denver the singer, I remember. Another of the regulars was an obnoxious, greasy man called Vinnie; my last memory of him was of another regular, a huge, massive, man with a scar down his face, trying to plant Vinnie upside down in a rose-bed outside the Hotel!