Pubs of Manchester

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

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Chicago Rock Café / Life Café, Peter Street

Chicago Rock Café, Peter Street, 2007 (c) skyscrapercity.

Thankfully this place has now closed, one of many frankly dreadful bars down Peter Street which are a blight on Manchester. Not sure if its basement club Studio has closed as well, we'll find out. Previously it was the Life Café (with its then basement venue, The Late Room), which by all accounts was much better than Chicago Rock, but went downhill towards the end. Although in its current guise the building would undoubtedly win awards for ugliness, behind that drab brick facade is hidden the remains of what was a gem of a Victorian theatre.

Life Café, Peter Street. (c) carling/Local Data Company.

The Grand Theatre, also known as the Grand Theatre of Varieties, was built in 1883 with a central ring and narrow balconies on all four sides, before being converted to a conventional three-sided theatre and music hall. The theatre is pictured in the 1900s, and this 1900 photo shows its interior. In 1916 the interior was reconstructed as a cinema and may have been known as the Old Futurist Cinema. The bizarre false front was built by the Christian Scientists who now reside across Peter Street. The cult moved into the building in 1924 and used the theatre as a church with the front part acting as a car showroom.

Chicago Rock Café, Peter Street, inside. (c) stagedoor at flickr.

The ugly facade was built in the 1970s when the original frontage was deemed unsafe [1]. It's seen here as the Fourth Church of Christ's Scientists in February 1973. The original facade plus its old iron canopy is seen in 1956 and is much more pleasing on the eye. Perhaps this grand old building will one day be restored to reveal itself again to the Manchester public, though this will probably have to wait until Peter Street reinvents itself as something other than venue for stag dos, hen nights and the alcopop crowd (they're increasingly flocking to the Printworks, so maybe sooner rather than later).

Chicago Rock Café, Peter Street. (c) Adam B. at flickr.

1. nerd at skyscrapercity.

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