Canal Street Online Manchester

End of an era with new owners at Vanilla

End of an era with new owners at Vanilla

Do you remember what your were doing in 1998?

Were you even alive?

Cher, the Spice Girls and Bewitched all had number one singles.

We associated the surnames, Clinton and Lewinsky.

Europeans agreed on a single currency – the Euro.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was all the Rage.


Titanic won 11 Oscars at the 70th Academy Awards.

This was also the year that one Steph Kay broke out on her own and following an opportune chat at a friends barbeque, began a journey that became VANILLA.

Having been the Manager at the legendary Manto in the early nineties, Steph had always wanted her own women's bar and when the venue became available she pounced.

Despite the lack of dedicated and safe spaces for lesbians and their friends, early trading was difficult and her standards and preseverance eventually paid off.

Vanilla became and remained the must visit for women not just from the Greater Manchester region, but frequently from further afield in the Uk and eventually abroad too.

Along the way, Steph recruited girls who had relocated in Manchester to study and work, which in turn, created a strong customer base  carrying forward into their professional employment choices.

Over time, the Vanilla brand developed into famous club events at Pride and other extended holiday weekends. Manchester (and Vanilla in particular) was now firmly on the female radar and the tag 'where the girls are' became fact.

Despite facing difficulties in trading conditions over the years, Vanilla stoically maintained it's format and values and survived and flourished, always evolving musically to reflect trends with DJ Furey and others.

On this journey for many years has been the 'other' Steph, Little.

Originally a bar girl, Steph L rose to manage Vanilla and has been instrumental in the venues look and feel over the years and the good news is that she will still be very much at the helm moving forward.

Steph Kay told us

"After 20 years at the helm of powering the UKs lesbian scene,  it’s time to “call time” as Vanilla MD.

It’s been an amazing experience, so many fabulous events , meeting over a million women. No regrets.

Wishing good luck to my GM Steph Little who is taking over , I’m looking forward to seeing major changes at the venue,  with talks of  a new roof terrace,  it really is an exciting time for Vanilla. 

It’s important to retain the brand and push it into it’s 3rd decade.

Massive SKs thanks to my partner Mel, and all our outstanding staff , and awesome clientele.

Vanilla will be hosting a retirement gathering for us this Sunday 2 June from 4pm, see you there for one last hurrah!"

New owners are the family behind On Bar on Canal St.

Published: 30-May-2019 Top Stories

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