Canal Street Online Manchester

Vanilla finally comes of age

Vanilla finally comes of age

This week, one of the Gay Village’s most successful bars celebrates it’s 18th birthday. No mean feat for any establishment, however, when you consider this is a lesbian bar, it is an especially auspicious occasion.

Where many lesbian specific establishments have tried and failed all over the country, Vanilla has stood the test of time and gone from strength to strength.

To celebrate, we spoke with owner Steph Kay about everything Vanilla, including the secret to it's success and how they’ll be celebrating their milestone birthday.


Happy 18th birthday Vanilla! How will you be celebrating this momentous occasion? 

We will be holding a big birthday weekend with all our resident DJs doing back to back sets. We are giving away 1000 free drinks on Friday and 500 on Saturday, and look out for the free 'Vanilla is 18' CDs. It's going to be a weekend to remember! 

What have been your stand out moments whilst running Vanilla over the years?

Without question the Manchester Pride festivals where we showcase the very best of Vanilla. Every year brings some different experiences, but its always great to see so many familiar faces in the crowd. Our 18 Pride’s have provided some truly wonderful memories for me and my team.

What was it like starting Vanilla back in 1998? How did people respond to a new lesbian venue?

They went wild and were very supportive from day 1. We are a small venue and so frequently we were full to the gunwales and it was just great to see so many 'liberated' girls under one roof.

Lesbian bars are notoriously transient but Vanilla has stood the test of time - what is the secret to your success?

High standards, excellent service, competitive products and we are always open to change. We don't discriminate against people wanting to bring males in as guests, we keep the music current and revamp the bar to keep up with the latest trends. We also keep in touch with our customers and guests via social media, keeping them informed about what's new and upcoming on a daily basis.

Have attitudes towards lesbians changed over the years?

Over the years being gay has become more socially acceptable meaning lesbians are now exploring places that aren't exclusively "for women”, which is a real positive for our community. Obviously this has had an impact on lesbian bars in general but Vanilla is still going strong! 

What’s the best thing about running a lesbian bar?

As the only one in the gay village, being able to still provide a safe environment for girls to meet and socialise is still the highlight for me and the team. 

You’ve recently added a tattoo studio to the bar, billed as the UKs first LGBTQ tattoo studio, how did that come about?

We were approached by a talented, creative, French artist called Desreee who wanted to rent a intermit space - our studio was perfect!

What does the future hold for Vanilla?

More of the same, with our ability to evolve the future is secure.

By Hayley-Jane Sims for Canal St Online.

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