Manchester’s world famous clubbing institution which ‘turned away’ Justin Bieber and hosted the ‘best nights out’

It’s been almost 30 years since Sankeys burst onto Greater Manchester’s nightlife scene and became a clubbing institution. The world famous nightspot first opened its doors as Sankeys Soap in June 1994 – named due its residence in Beehive Mill which once manufactured soap – by promoters Andy Spiro and Rupert Campbell.

Two years later, the Jersey Street venue closed, but it was revived in 2000 by Mr Vincent and music promoter Sacha Lord, who later went on to launch the successful Warehouse Project. Their partnership ended in 2006 with the club closing again, but later that year Vincent reopened the club with the shorter name of Sankeys instead.

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Sankeys boasted sophisticated lighting and sound equipment and a roster of top DJs. It entered the big leagues of the clubbing world and franchises saw the Sankeys name transported out of Manchester into Ibiza and New York.

It was voted the best nightclub in the world by industry bible DJ Mag, but in 2017, the venue closed as it was sold to a developer to be turned into apartments. Here’s we take a brief look back at the popular venue, from memories to its last days and semi-return.

Sankey’s in Manchester, 2011

From getting tickets to nights featuring legendary DJs to comical tales shared with friends, Sankeys certainly made its mark on the Manchester clubbing scene. Some of “the best nights” were had there by local clubbers and when it closed, it felt like “a loss” to many across the region.

It was the center of some incredible memories and hilarious moments. In 2013, many will remember when Sankey’s “turned away” Canadian singer Justin Bieber.

At the time, the venue posted to Twitter: “Yes the rumors are true, we turned Justin Bieber away. He shuffles on stage and we can’t be having that in Sankeys now can we!”

Jilly's Rockworld nightclub, Manchester.  January 5, 1995

But after over two decades, on June 12, 2017 loyal clubbers and fans of Sankeys were left devastated at the Manchester clubbing institution announced its closure, as Beehive Mill was sold to be turned into apartments. Staff at the Beehive Mill nightclub in Ancoats were told that day, along with promoters and artists due to be holding events at the club the upcoming weekend.

The Grade II* listed former cotton mill had been listed for sale with Savills UK. It described Beehive Mill as a “prime residential opportunity'” and said there had been “positive pre-application discussions with Manchester City Council” to convert it.

At the time, former Sankeys owner Paul “Fletch” Fletcher, said he has been told the club closed “with immediate effect.” He said: “I’ve spent most of my adult life in there, as a punter and as an owner, so it’s a place that’s close to my heart so of course I’m saddened by the news. Another one of Manchester’s iconic clubs gone forever. When will we learn?”

What are your memories of Sankeys? Let us know in the comments section below.

The club first opened its doors as Sankeys Soap in June 1994
The club first opened its doors as Sankeys Soap in June 1994

Warehouse Project boss Sacha Lord, who revived the club in 2000 with then-business partner David Vincent, also shared his memories on Twitter. He tweeted: “If it’s true, I’m saddened to hear the news about Sankeys. Owning it 2000-2006 were fun and challenging years! A Loss to Manchester #Sankeys.”

News of the Manchester club’s closure prompted an outpouring of memories on Twitter from clubbers past and present. Happy Mondays singer Rowetta tweeted: “#RIPSankeys. More flats in a city with so many homeless people! Sad.”

And Josh Bardsley tweeted: “Had so many memories at @sankeys_mcr, met some of the best nights out I’ve ever had in there.” The MEN has contacted the club’s ownership, Savills and Burton Varley at the time, but nobody was available for comment.

Sankey's, Manchester, 2011
Sankeys, Manchester, back in 2011

Following the announcement, Manchester clubbers, DJs and celebs reacted to Sankeys closure, taking to social media to express their sadness. The hashtag #RIPSankeys was also used.

DJ Gareth Brooks reminisced about his time on the decks at the Manchester institution and tweeted: “First met @mark_webster when I used to play house at his night at @Sankeys_Mcr. He shouted at me for playing too hard.” Former Sankeys DJ Krysko, tweeted: “Every Saturday between 2000-2006 I played in that booth, some of my most treasured memories. Sankeys Soap, what a legacy,” alongside an image of his decks of him.

Sankeys DJs Leftwing & Kody wrote: “Such a shame to hear about Sankeys_Mcr we’ve had some amazing nights there over the years Thoughts are with the Sankeys team.” And Key 103 DJ Sophie Wright posted a picture of her Ella playing in the club and said it was “sad to see such an iconic Manchester club go.”

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The venue thrived for over 20 years
The venue thrived for over 20 years

But, the following day, Sankeys said the closure wasn’t ‘the end’ as owners explored options for new nightclub. In a statement released at the time, management said: “We are looking at a few options in terms of a new venue to replicate the legendary Basement and Spektrum [the club’s two rooms].

“We will also be running a series of pop-up events including of existing bookings and shows yet to be released.” Bosses said the decision to shut the Manchester club had been made ‘with great regret and with a very heavy heart’ when they learned of the building’s sale.

They continued: “When you look around Ancoats you’ll see new apartment blocks and new developments throughout the area, we have done well to fend off the developers for so long. After our most successful quarter in 7 years it is a particularly bitter situation .”

“We must pay tribute to those guys who smashed it over the last 6 months, without doubt the recent influx of numbers made the landlord’s decision that bit harder. From the directors and management team at Sankeys Manchester, we apologize for how suddenly the change in circumstances have taken place. Thank you all for you kind words, your stories and memories of past times at Beehive Mill. Sankeys x.”

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Sankeys announced its closure in 2017
Sankeys announced its closure in 2017

But the Ancoats venue signed off with an all-day closing party on Bank Holiday Monday, May 6, 2017. At the time, boss David Vincent released a statement on the club’s Facebook page today explaining that he now plans to focus his energies on club nights in the sunny climes of Ibiza instead.

However, Manchester wasn’t missing the legendary Sankeys nights for long, as in 2018, the former Manchester club, which had a permanent venue in Ibiza, said it would be returning to its spiritual for a special event at Victoria Warehouse in Trafford. In 2019, Sankeys also announced it was bringing a huge festival to Manchester to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

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Manchester City players about to board the train at Picadilly station on their way to Wembley for the FA Cup final against Leicester City.  Ir Alan Oakes, Mike Doyle, Colin Bell, Neil Young and Tony Coleman.  April 24, 1969

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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