From the outside, The Washhouse in Manchester looks just like any other neighbourhood laundrette. Half-filled baskets of clothes sit on loaded machines, stickers advertising special offers adorn the red-brick wall and a small television is mounted in the corner. But this is a washhouse with a difference, and behind one of the larger machines lies a secret; a speakeasy-style cocktail bar.
The whole ethos of The Washhouse is secrecy. The bar’s website lists a location somewhere in Shudehill, with a cryptic message that states, “We don’t cater for all your laundry needs and more. Our friendly staff won’t take care of your washing and it’s probably best not to let them loose near a washing machine. But whether you are a local resident or a student, drop in and give us a spin.” The site also lists a dedicated phone number for reservations, which is essential for entry, and guests can also arrange to visit via The Washhouse’s Facebook page.
Opened in 2015, news about the unique cocktail bar has been spreading ever since, and the speakeasy is preparing to launch a brand new drinks menu within the next few weeks. The hidden space can only serve 40 people at a time, and features dark leather booths, wooden table tops and moody, ambient lighting. Teasing posts on the bar’s Facebook page include, “Have you found us yet? We’re hiding in plain sight,” while eager visitors leave cryptic comments on the page’s wall requesting reservations, “Would love to get four wash loads in today if possible, late afternoon anytime between 4 & 7 if there’s a slot available. They need a good scrub!”
With visitors entering the bar through a secret, hidden door, the shop’s façade has proven so effective that befuddled customers have been showing up with bags of dirty clothes, believing that it is actually a laundromat. This led to the bar changing their website description to be more tongue in cheek, hoping that prospective washers would realise that all was not as it seemed.
The venue is also available to hire for a range of private events and small parties.