Pubs of Manchester

All pubs within the city centre and beyond.
A history of Manchester's hundreds of lost pubs.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Auto Club, Richmond Street

A mysterious one, known to a couple of our pals who frequented Manchester in the '60s, '70s, 80's, one of whom remembers being a member of the Auto Club.   It was first described as "around the back of Piccadilly bus station", but they must be mistaken as it's been confirmed as being in the Gay Village, to the rear of the New Union on Richmond Street, ran by Bill Pilling for 26 years.  It's exact location appears to be behind the bin wagon in the below shot, in the three-floor building.  An Evening News reader 'Ace Shakespeare' also recalls it in a 2008 article about the Krays, Dougie Flood and the Quality Street gangsters: "...most used to have their own place to meet most nights - the 'Auto Club' which has now closed and has become part of Manchester's glorious history" [1].


Behind the New Union, Richmond Street. (c) googlemaps.

The Auto Club opened at 10pm and stayed open late, and as Bill Pilling's son can confirm, the club had  a reputation for the best steaks in Manchester thanks to Peter the Greek chef.  Local John Clarke remembers going in the Auto Club as a naive 17 year old on a works do in 1983.  The interior was like a speakeasy, and decorated with old car chrome hub caps.  To gain entry to the Auto Club, one would knock on the door and utter a password to the bouncer through a hatch.  This bouncer sounds like the Polish chap Yanoush, that former Cyprus Tavern manager Yiannis Kitromilides remembers, also known as Yan with the big cigar.

40 comments:

  1. AUTO CLUB WAS ON THE FRINGE OF THE GAY VILLAGE AROUND THE BACK OF THE NEW UNION ! IT WAS OWNED BY A FRIEND OF MY FATHERS WHO WAS CALLED BILL .
    YIANNIS KITROMILIDES

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  2. Alright Yiannis, you're backed up by the following from bluemoon:

    "The Auto Club anyone? It was just a blank door you knocked on. Probably part of the Gay Village now remembering where it was. A real after hours place where people working in the clubs went to after they closed. Greeks ran it I think? Proper dive"

    However, our mates insist it was behind Piccadilly! Maybe there are two Auto Clubs...

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  3. THINK THE DOOR IS STILL THERE IF MEMORY SERVES ME RIGHT COVERED BY A METAL GRILL !!! BILL PILLING WAS THE OWNER AND A BIG POLISH GUY CALLED YANOUSH WORKED ON THE DOOR !!!
    YIANNIS KITROMILIDES

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  4. I used to go to the Auto Club most weekendsin the 1960s it was directly behind the Union Pub ( Gay Village) lots of people who worked in the hotels etc called in after work Just needed to knock on the door and ask for " Frank" .
    Had many a good night in there

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  5. Yiannis & Anon - thanks very much for this info. I've changed the location of the Auto Club to Richmond Street for now and added a few snaps of where it might have been. We'll have a mooch (not a mince) down there soon and get better pics of where the entrance is. Cheers

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  6. Hi the actual entrance is behind the back of the bin truck in your photo !
    YIANNIS KITROMILIDES

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  7. Cheers Yiannis! We'll get a better photo when we saunter on down there at some point...

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  8. The owner was called Billy Pilling, he also had the Green Door and another 'newspaper' pub over Victoria way.
    The Auto was excellent in the 70's and early 80's,tiny dancefloor with a free play Wurlitzer Juke Box, great steak and greek salad from Peter the chef (think he was Greek). Didn't get busy until everywhere else shut!
    Regarding the doorman, his name was Jannis (Yiannis?), happy days!

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  9. Thought I would also add to my post above that The Green Door was a newspapermans pub with special licensing hours that went with the trade back then due to the shifts worked (something like open til 5am), The Crusader club was another owned by the Express I think. If you were in the know with the right people you could party 24/7 in Manchester back then.... Dave

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  10. Cheers for the info! The Green Door, Shudehill and New Green Door, Dantzic Street are on here, see the alphabetical menu ----->
    Any idea which street the other newspaper club near Victoria was on?

    Crusader Club near the Express Buildings? I'm currently researching the "Ponderosa Club"/"Express Club" just off Oldham Road. Do you know if the Crusader Club (which I also have a bit of info on) is a different place?

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  11. Hi
    My dad Bill Pilling ran the Auto Club for 26 years. He opened at 10pm and stayed open late!
    Yan (big cigar) was the doorman, both are still going strong. Peter the chef was Greek, and the Auto had the reputation of the best steaks in Manchester, and I know I had a coupl in my time!! He also ran the Graphic which was a newspaper club. There was no upstairs knocking shop.

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  12. Thanks for the great info mate. Will update the entry (this is one of the most commented on pubs/clubs on the site!). Any idea where the Graphic Club was? Cheers

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    1. Graphic club was on Deansgate, a few doors down from Sawyers Arms. I was in there one night and Alex Higgins walked in well pissed and still thrashed the best pool player in there.

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  13. Hey is that Bill's lovely daughter on 3rd Feb?
    if it is then you always did make a pint you pulled taste sweeter!
    Am trying to get the addy for the Graphic.
    As for the Crusader Club, 'newspaper Alan' used to take us over there from the Auto at stupid o'clock in the morning.... There is nothing to compare with the Auto thsese days, it was simply the best! Dave (again)

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  14. The Graphic was on Swan Street but I can't recall exactly where, Frank (Foo Foo) Lamar was often in there for a drink. Dave

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  15. Cheers Dave, least we know its Swan Street. Wonder if it could have been either side of Fringe (Old White Bear / Polars) - both buildings have fine old tiling reminiscent of pubs

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  16. the Auto club was opened in 1966 by Bill Pilling, the address was 63 Richmond St, but in order to satisfy, licensing magistrates, an entrance, was made in Abingdon St.The first doorman was a silver tongued irishman Frank Wroe, his wife became the main barmaid,Bernie,fabulous worker. Chef was Peter Manoli, a Greek cypriot, brother to Nick who used to be chef at Chanteclair club off High St,until Nick opened the Green Door club on Shudehill, for press workers. The Auto club was sold to Harry who had the Union pub.in1992 but did not last long.
    Bill, also opened the Graphic club,which was on Deansgate, in a basement under a cafe next to the Sawyers Arms,after 16 years he sold it to Glenn Stevens, who renamed it Maxwells. Another club Bill opened was Pipers Disco on Spring Gardens.He bought it from Reg Kilduff who had the Rembrandt on Sackville ST.before pyms it was the Gaiety,and before that it had been a good high class restaraunt, the Three Shires.Hope, these facts, clear up some misconceptions. gilerabill@hotmail.co.uk.
    lso

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  17. Juke box. in Auto club, was a Seeberg not Wurlitzer Seebergs were known as Rolls Royce of Juke boxes.

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  18. Chanteclair club was owned by Johnny Doulas an ex wrestler of Cypriot extraction. Nick Manoli had the kitchen franchise,Nick also had cafe, named the Eats Bar on Oxford road, next to the Pigalle club owned by Steve Vasilou.The Galleon club owned by Michael Xenis was on opposite side of Oxford Rd.Jolly Roger club was lower down at traffic lights.

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  19. Gilerabill has certainly refreshed my memory of places and people, as well as clearing my long held misconception about the juke box. It remains however a happy memory of playing whatever you wanted to listen/dance along to. I also used to frequent Pipers back in the day, yes I was one of the younger Auto Club members :) Hope you share more memories/facts with us and thanks...

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  20. Gilerabill is very accurate with his comments, made a very nice read. Best Barmaids (besides Billy's gorgeous daughter Wendy) was Terri & Lynn sisters from Wythenshawe.

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    1. Anyone would think he owned the place!?!

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  21. Interesting reading and many memories revived! I used to frequent both the Auto Club and Pipers a lot from the mid-'70s to the early '80s. I had many truly excellent steaks in the the Auto and I remember Emelia being my favourite barmaid there! Motorcyclists Bernard Murray, Steve Wynne and Paul Ludlam (plus others) were regular visitors and Bill used to race motorbikes too. Len was manager of Pipers and we became good friends. Happy days! wfnuk@hotmail.com

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    1. The lovely and very Irish Amelia was a honey, Terri and Lynn dangerous to get on a Bacardi session with!

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  22. Amelia was certainly not Irish, more likely Ukranian, had tall sister, Slouka, who occasionally, worked behind bar.Amelia, was married to Len Booth,who was for a time, manager of Pipers club.Steve Wynn has retired and lives in New Zealand, or Heaven, as he calls it.Bernard Murray is still owner of B.M. commercials at Bredbury. Paul Ludlam died some years ago of a heart attack, whilst with his two sons at an unofficial, scramble course at Bredbury. Bill Pilling, gave up road racing, in October 2011, after falling off at Catterick hill climb, due to ethanol which is now being added to petrol, causing his engine to seize, he was 82 that year.In 2010 he became Belgian Classic Champion in his class. Salfords Danny Grayson,was doorman for a while, then became manager of Graphic Club, then moved to New Century club, now has a pub in Liverpool street. Salford

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  23. The Auto club was without doubt the best late night club in Manchester I was introduced to the club in the early eighties and it was superb all Bill and all the staff especially, Yan and Pete the chef were brilliant company to be in when Bill closed it I said to him what are you going to do with the Jukebox and he said he was going to keep it but he said why you ask, I said oh there was a couple of records on that I wouldn't of minded having with that Bill said oh I have got loads of boxes in the cellar full of records which he preceded to bring up and he let me go through and pick out any I wanted and he sold them to for 10p each I still have those records to this day and the majority of them are worth a lot more than 10p !!! I was in the club on its last night and I must admit I shed a tear or two it really was a cracking club - thanks for the memories Bill

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  24. Wendy Terri Lynn - still love you
    John

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  25. Amelia also worked in that little pub opposite Oscars..

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  26. I went in the Auto club a few times with my brother, David, who was a regular there. The steaks did look superb, but I never had one. I particularly remember Yan. He used to open the door and I would ask him if David was in. "David the coont? Yes, come in? You're the coonts brother!" Happy days.

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  27. My friend and I frequented the Auto every weekend in mid seventies. It was Danny on the door,George cooking steaks, Frank complete with cigar managing, smokey Joe waiting on and Bernie behind the bar.All regulars were part of a photo collage that adorned the walls as you came in.Happy days!

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    1. Yeah, That's how I remember it. Used to go with the QS lads. George the Greek always cooking the steaks. He was a good mate of my dad's. George opened the Century club - had Mike d.jaying there. There'd be gangsters next to celebrities next to bus drivers. Good mux.

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  28. I used to drink here in the late 70s/early 80s. I loved it. It seemed to me like a magical place out of a cheap crime novel. I remember the tiny dance floor and the juke box. Never ate there - I only went for the drink. I remember Yan on the door. Did he keep some sort of weapon close to hand? And I'm pretty sure I had a membership card.

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  29. Great reading about Bills clubs. The Auto was the place all the people who worked around town met. I worked for Bill at Pipers, from the opening night. and also at the Graphic press club for a couple of years.

    The auto was a place to relax in for me, not to work.

    Remember fondly Frank and Bernie, Amelia, Peter the chef, obviously Bill, his daughter Wendy, Eve, Sue, and so many fabulous people from back in the day.
    Sylvia. x

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    1. gilerabil@gmail.com.10 October 2016 at 22:44

      Syl,good to hear from you,the most attractive barmaid at Pipers,remember you saying opening night, you had best tips ever!!

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  30. There used to be a hidden doorbell above the door. Jan would come out, swear at you then let you in if you were known or with someone known. Really miss the Auto club and Jan in particular. He'd sometimes join us in the Press club on Queen street afterwards. I used to frequent it in the late '80s.

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  31. I was resident drummer/singer at Deno's and we used to go to the auto now and again for a late drink and sometimes a steak chips and salad ..it was bloody delicious....HAPPY DAYS !!!!

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  33. started going there in mid-80's after work. i was a chef back then and most people going in around that time were shift-workers from the hotel and catering trade. the door was actually on abdingdon st and you gained entry by ringing the bell. if yan recognised you you were in. woe betide anyone who impatiently rang that bell twice, yan had a temper on him. i only did it once :) you could drink there from 10pm til gone 5am. rolled out many a time. happy days.

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  34. Bill had the most beautiful girls in Manchester working in his clubs.
    Who could forget Bernie, Sylvia, Amelia to mention just three.

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  35. Bill had the most beautiful girls in Manchester working in his clubs.
    Who could forget Bernie, Sylvia, Amelia to mention just three.

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