Judge Gill creates speakeasy bar in Manchester

Judge Gill has designed and branded Black Dog Ballroom, a speakeasy-style bar in the Northern Quarter of Manchester.


Situated in the basement of shopping centre Afflecks Palace, the bar is owned by local entrepreneurs Ross Mackenzie and Jobe Ferguson.

Judge Gill was appointed directly in June 2008, on the strength of previous bar design for Mackenzie.

Mackenzie was looking for a ‘New York speakeasy-style bar with pool tables – not a pool hall – and a nice bar facility’, according to design director Matt Wheatcroft.

The consultancy has named Black Dog Ballroom after researching American pool halls and finding one called Black Dog Billiards, which inspired their choice as it has resonance with ‘traditional Manchester pub names’, according to Wheatcroft, who says older Manchester pubs were often named after animals.

Judge Gill previously designed and branded another bar, Isobar, in 1996, which stood on the same site as Black Dog Ballroom before changing hands.

The interior uses exposed brickwork, bare wooden floors and reclaimed furniture for a ‘rough New York look, without making it too trashy,’ Wheatcroft says.

A secret door, that appears flush with wooden paneling, will give way to ‘the Ball Room’, a secret room with a bar, which may guide users to its entrance with templates of dance steps on the floor or a keypad near the door.

Wheatcroft says he would like to include an oversize ‘porcelain-style dog’ for people to sit on, ‘but it won’t be made of porcelain, of course’.

The bar is due to open in October.

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