On a gloriously sunny morning in Withington, the high street is bustling with students inbetween lectures, friends drinking coffee, and young professionals hunting a café to work from.
The south Manchester suburb, nestled between Didsbury and Fallowfield, has long been a popular spot for those wanting to live on the fringes of the city centre. Residents have often been attracted to its diverse offering of pubs, bars and shops - and its friendly sense of community.
Pubs like the Orion, The Victoria, Red Lion and acclaimed cafes and bars, Fuel, Toast and Southside have become staples for locals, who are made up of a diverse range of students, families and older residents. But for some newer venues who tried to bring something new to the area, things just haven't quite worked out.
READ MORE: 'It's not a bad area, but it's very rough and very dangerous': The Manchester suburb where people are struggling to live
A former District Bank building on the high street underwent a huge refurbishment summer last year, reopening as all-day restaurant, bar and music venue, Libertine. Picked up by the team behind much-loved city centre spots, Cottonopolis and the Edinburgh Castle, it was thought to be destined for success.
But after just six months of opening, the pub announced it had temporarily closed its doors due to rocketing energy costs. The venue was a firm favourite for some locals, but others said it felt 'out of place' in the neighbourhood.
It comes less than a year after a hip record store and bar, which had opened some three years prior, closed its doors in April last year. The owner of Wilderness Records said the venture 'just hadn't worked out.'
Despite the more recent closures, which have come at a time when multiple hospitality venues across the region are having to close, residents in Withington say they still have hope for their suburb.
Speaking to the M.E.N, many of them said the result of lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic meant they tended to stay local. And despite the rising cost of living, still frequent their favourite pubs, bars and restaurants.
Liv, 23, who is a student and works part-time, and her friend Ruby-Ann, 30, who is a full-time mum, say they 'get a lot of use' of Withington, and that the area has everything they need. They're enjoying an iced coffee and a chat outside the bustling Costa cafe when we speak to them.
"There have been a few closures which is a bit sad but the charity shops are amazing, Fuel is great, and I spend a lot of time in the parks and stuff," Liv said.
"If I was going out for a drink I'd probably go to Southside. I'd never been to Libertine before, I feel it's a bit out place and quite expensive whereas most of the places round here are really affordable. I think in the Orion it's about £2.50 a pint.
"I think Withington at night time is very busy with students so they tend to gravitate to the cheaper places. I'd probably go to Fuel, the Orion, or somewhere in Chorlton. Town (Manchester city centre) is really expensive so I don't really go."
Ruby-Ann, whose habits have changed since having a child, added: "If we go to cafes we tend to stay round here or maybe Didsbury. I rarely go into town for family stuff now."
Debbie and David live near the Christie Hospital in Withington, and have recently retired. They said they were gutted to hear that their favourite new venue, Libertine, had closed its doors.
"It's a real shame, we wanted it to succeed because it was a bit like Volta in Didsbury and we thought it would be great for Withington," they said. "Maybe it was a bit too expensive. It's a difficult market and it's divided between Didsbury. I couldn't imagine people coming from Didsbury to eat there.
"It's a shame though because it really did offer something different for people living here and we were willing it to succeed. We went three our four times and really liked what they'd done with the place. We wanted to support places in Withington instead of always going to Burton Road."
The couple say they also like Withington Public Hall, and rarely go into Manchester city centre anymore - partly to do with how expensive it is.
Despite the closure of one of their favourite drinking spots, Debbie and David said they wouldn't want to live anywhere else. "We've got such a good variety of places and diverse range of restaurants here, and it's nice because you can walk everywhere," they said.
Nancy and Jack, who are both students in Manchester, spend most of their time around Withington high street in the week, and will usually head to Northern Quarter at the weekend.
"If it's in the week we have more a chilled one and we'd go to Southside, the Vic, Fuel, the Orion and Red Lion. On a weekend we'd go to Northern Quarter," Nancy said.
"I went to Libertine once with my family. I think it was a bit too bougie for a student area. I do think we need something like an Aldi here though not just the Sainsbury's and Co-op. We need somewhere cheaper. I try to go to the Lidl near uni but it's a bit annoying and it would be useful if there was something closer."
Since the coronavirus pandemic, students Niamh, 23, and Kate, 22, say they spend more time in local pubs around Withington, than they do in Manchester city centre.
"We usually go the Orion," they said. "We never went to Libertine, it kind of felt a bit out place here. Our friends who work usually go out in the city centre so we might meet them there."
For students Trystan and Josh, Haus in Fallowfield and Southside and the Red Lion are their go-to pubs. They say they'd intended to try out Libertine, but were saddened to hear it had already shut.
The owners of Libertine, which offered small plates, Sunday roasts, and a range of craft beers and cocktails said they were temporarily closing to 'take stock' of their current energy tariffs.
The announcement came as scores of other venues across the city are having to close their doors, citing rocketing running costs as the main reason they hadn't been able to fully recover from the pandemic.
Just this week, Northern Quarter's Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun announced its shock closure with 'skyrocketing' costs and soaring energy bills said to be the reason.
Owners made the emotional announcement on social media on Wednesday evening, saying the decision to close has 'broken their hearts' and has come after months of meetings and deliberations.
It comes after popular student haunt Font, announced another shock closure, after 22 years. The New Wakefield Street bar, which was a particular hit with students for selling cocktails for as little as £3, said that the rising cost of living, and the impact of the pandemic had taken an 'insurmountable toll' on the business.
Night time economy adviser, Sacha Lord, warned at the end of last year that many hospitality businesses in the city wouldn't make it through the winter without further government intervention.
A spokesperson for Libertine told the M.E.N: "We are currently taking stock of the energy tariffs we are on. Once we have a better idea on this we will have a clearer idea on opening back up." The bar, which opened in August last year, was previously active on social media, but had not posted anything since mid-December.
Read more of today's top stories here
- Man who once won the lottery escapes jail for stealing £15k of trainers
- Nicola Bulley search timeline day-by-day and all the key evidence
- The 10 Greater Manchester areas where house prices are still soaring
- Court hears further details in tragic case of young man killed by tree
- Eerie photos of Manchester's abandoned Belle Vue Stadium that's like a zombie apocalypse film