The owner of a new café bar in Altrincham town centre says he will be realising a long-held dream when it opens later this month.
Workmen are currently transforming the old Bar 59 site on Stamford New Road into Embrace Bar, a Victoriana-style café bar that will offer coffee, tea and pastries in the afternoon and live music, fine wine and cocktails in the evening.
It’s all the vision of Mike Burke, a businessman in his early 50s who first dreamt of opening a bar two decades ago and has finally taken the plunge.
Born in Old Trafford but now living in Altrincham, Burke says his new bar – which comes with the strapline ‘House of Spirits’ – will be “upmarket, but not in a snobby way… it’ll be classy”.
“It’s been a pipe dream of mine probably since my early 30s,” he says. “At the time I was thinking about setting up a little blues bar, but now I’m thinking we’ll just have a blues night, and the bar will have much more to it than that.
“It will have a Victoriana feel, and will be a bit of a nod to the early 20th century because they did things in style then. It won’t be a theme place, but the concept will revolve around the idea of the House of Spirits. There’ll be an embracing spirit – come on in, enjoy good music, enjoy a drink, enjoy the company. I like the phrase I saw in the Northern Quarter the other day – ‘strictly speaking, alcohol is the solution’. I like that idea, without overdoing it too much.”
The bar’s name has particular resonance for Burke – for the past 10 years he’s run Embrace E-Learning, an Altrincham-based provider of training courses for workers in the health and social care sectors. He’ll be leaving the day-to-day management of Embrace Bar to a manager, Finbar, to enable him to keep the day job.
Below: The site of the new Embrace Bar on Stamford New Road
Before finding the current site, Burke had nearly secured two other places, one of them the former L’Amore Kitchen and Bar on The Downs. Alas, sky-high rents put him off that premises.
He’s confident though that his chosen site – currently been knocked into shape by a team of workmen in time for an opening before the end of the month – is well located, close to the “bouncing” Goose Green area.
He adds: “We’re investing heavily in it, bringing it right up to specification from a fire safety, hygiene and hopefully design point of view.
“We have some really nice features – we’ve built a nice stage, the central staircase is a big feature, the decking outside is really good. It’s going to have a few things that some of the other places in Altrincham don’t have.
“I think we’ll benefit from Goose Green, and I think Goose Green will benefit from us as well. Especially with winter coming up, it will be somewhere with a bit more capacity than some of the smaller places in Goose Green.”
The bar will serve charcuterie-style food – cold meats, cheese board, olives and soups – and has also hired a pastry chef for the daytime crowd.
Is he worried about the current state of vacant unit-heavy Stamford New Road? He thinks that once the interchange and hospital open, “things are going to change in a big way”.
“This is the main thoroughfare between the two,” he adds. “There’s the Laundry Boutique down the road that is just opening up – that looks very classy, and that’s the kind of place that Altrincham can do with. What they’re doing for clothes, we’ll do for coffee, wine and cocktails.”
Below: The new bar’s logo