Prison-Themed Bar Offers Real-Life Breakout Experience
As the country eases out of lockdown, the girls and I have been looking to try out all sorts of weird and memorable nights out, keen to catch up on the months we’ve missed.
And so, when an email from the newly-opened Alcotraz Manchester landed in my inbox, I couldn’t help but feel a little intrigued, despite in no way suiting the colour orange.
Alcotraz, which has locations in London and Manchester, is themed around a ’50s US prison, complete with prison cells, line-ups and solitary confinement. There’s even a bad-tempered warden presiding over it all.
While most trendy Manchester bars prioritise comfort and flattering lighting, Alcotraz – which riffs off the infamous, long-abandoned San Francisco prison – is built to look exactly like an old-fashioned cell block, furnished with vintage personal effects and – thankfully out of use – toilets.
Once your group is settled into your private cell, jumpsuits on, you’ll get served some pretty delicious cocktails from fellow prisoners under the guise of ‘chicken soup’. But first of all you have to smuggle in some of your own drinks without the warden cottoning on.
I admittedly didn’t quite get the idea with this at first, and thought I had to conceal beverages in random objects I’d brought with me from home.
And so, although I was kind of proud of myself for hiding gin miniatures inside a bouquet of sunflowers, the effort really wasn’t necessary. You will get help with this bit on arrival, and so there’s absolutely no need to stuff anything in your bra en route.
Without giving too much away, this isn’t merely just a themed bar. It’s more of an immersive theatre experience where patrons are encouraged to join in, and the actors are genuinely very good at drawing you into the unfolding narrative.
Being quite a shy, awkward person whose worst fear is being picked out during a comedy show, I admittedly am not the best at thinking on my feet and channelling a believable character. ‘Jailbird Julia’ sadly won’t be winning any Oscars anytime soon.
However, I ended up having great fun thinking up a complicated backstory for our group (a joint self-defence against a wicked attacker gone wrong!) and if you’re the sort who excelled at drama at school you will no doubt relish the opportunity to unleash your creativity over a refreshing mojito.
Although I personally took a while to warm up, I genuinely got pretty into the plot after a while, and soon found myself enjoying getting up to all sorts of dodgy dealings and clandestine chats over ‘bootlegged’ liqueur.
Although, understandably, some people won’t be 100% comfortable with the idea of a cellblock-themed bar – especially one named after such a notoriously brutal prison – Alcotraz arguably feels more inspired by your favourite prison escape movies rather than the stark realities of incarceration.
I can see this new Manchester location soon becoming a popular go-to destination for birthday parties with a difference, providing plenty of laughs, twists and some interesting group photo opportunities.
A genuinely fun and memorable evening for those who like to try something a little different, Alcotraz is an ideal stop for friends looking to create new memories together post-lockdown.
Alcotraz: Cell Block Three-Four opened to members of the public on July 16 at 1a Watson Street, and you can make a booking here.
Tickets cost £29.99 for time spent in the prison commissary area, or £35.99 for a stay in the cells.
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