Food & Drink

Rainy City goes dry: Teetotal actor John Thomson says cheers to Manchester’s first alcohol-free bar

Comedian John Thomson is to toast the opening of Manchester’s first alcohol-free bar tonight.

Among the Kilner jam jar-filled cocktails and cold beers that hold residency within the Northern Quarter stands The Umbrella Café, a bar that boasts a drinks menu without beer, wine and spirits.

Playing lovable loser Pete on Cold Feet and jazz club host Louis Balfour on The Fast Show turned John Thomson into a household name, although his battle with alcohol addiction also meant that the Salford-born funny man made headlines for the wrong reasons during his career. 

Now seven years sober, it’s clear that being the face of The Umbrella Café is somewhat close to John’s heart.

“I take it as a great honour to be asked to be patron of The Umbrella Café. This is a first for Manchester and I hope it proves to be as great a success as other similar ‘dry’ projects in the UK,” said John, who is patron of the bar.

“The current coffee bar culture is a huge cultural phenomenon but, as many of these cease to trade in the evening, where can the non-drinkers of the world unite?

“A Friday and Saturday night for a non-drinker has never been catered for, there’s never been a safe non-threatening environment for fellow teetotallers, for whatever reasons, to get to get together and socialise.”

From tonight, the public can expect everything from live music and comedy, DJ sets, drinks like the virgin Apple Nojito and dance performances every Friday and Saturday night at the Nexus Art Café on Dale Street.

TV star John said: “I hope this project is a huge success and gains a reputation as being somewhere cool and exciting to go without the fear of the atmosphere turning sour because of different individuals’ adverse reactions to alcohol.

“I back this project 100% and genuinely hope that I can have a place in town that I and many others like me, who don’t drink, can look forward to visiting and socialising in for many years to come.”

The project is the brainchild of Community Interest Company, The Dry Umbrella CIC Co-Director Helen Malarky.

She said: “We at the Umbrella Café are delighted to have such a local legend as our patron.

“John is not only a comedy and acting star to us, he is someone who totally understands where we are coming from and why we are doing this. He is much more than just a figurehead, he is one of us.”

The Umbrella Café will be open from 7.30pm on Friday and Saturday nights, beginning Friday 5th September. For more information on The Dry Umbrella CIC please visit website

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