Via – the Canal Street institution that’s been Manchester’s ‘most epic night out’ for almost 30 years

The LGBTQ+ venue has been a popular part of the city's epic nightlife scene ever since it opened in 1995.

Daisy Jackson Daisy Jackson - 10th March 2023

All Mancs know that Canal Street offers one of the best nights out in the city, and one particular bar has stood the test of time for almost three decades. 

Via, right in the midst of the city’s LGBTQ+ heartland, has been part of Manchester’s epic nightlife scene ever since it opened in 1995. 

It’s an institution of the Gay Village and is still serving up massive nights out when other bars in the area have shut their doors for good. 

The secret to its success boils down to a perfect formula of live entertainment, food, outside space and fabulous interiors, all immortalised through groundbreaking TV shows like Queer as Folk and Cucumber.  

Via was once a former carpet warehouse, but all those years ago was transformed into a gay bar, then known as Via Fossa. 


Its decor was inspired by Irish pubs, hence all the ornate, church-like wood and chandeliers, and although Stonegate have made a few changes since they took over in 2016 (a new bar here, a new seating area there), the bones and the soul of the venue haven’t changed a jot.

Here, it’s all about the live experience, especially the drag cabaret Via is famed for. 


Sometimes that takes the shape of a tribute act – you’ll find the likes of ‘Madonna’ and ‘Cher’ parading around this legendary venue. 

Other times it’s actual famous faces, which have included in recent times, or will include in the coming months, drag legend and star of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Danny Beard, Claire Richards from pop group Steps, Mutya Buena from Sugababes, Christina Bianco, Black Peppa, and X Factor’s Sam Bailey. 

And it attracts its fair share of famous punters too – Fred Again, one of the hottest names in music right now who will headline Parklife in the summer, was partying in here with Romy from The XX not too long ago, documenting it all on his Instagram page. 


The inclusive and safe hotspot has been part of Canal Street’s vibrant nightlife scene for longer than almost any other bar. The only places that have been here longer are the New Union, REM Bar, and Cruz 101. 

Mike Mitchell, general manager of Via, has ploughed masses of time and energy into the bar’s live entertainment, and has done since the minute Covid restrictions eased in 2021. 

He wanted performers to be able to get straight back on to the stage after so many months without live work, and supercharged Via’s programme with cabaret shows all throughout the week.

Arguably its best night of the week is Sundays, when it’s a full cabaret show with around six acts in one night. 

House acts Ky Kelly, Miss Penny, and Shania Pain are joined by other musical performances, with free entry and live entertainment for hours and hours. 


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During the daytimes, it’s a more relaxed pub-like atmosphere, with a menu that includes stone-baked pizzas, burgers, winges and loaded fries. 

Describing the bar, Mike went for one word – ‘epic’, and who could possibly argue with that?

Featured Image – The Manc Group