It was an unusually quiet New Year’s Eve in the center of Manchester, as partygoers kept the celebrations modest after a difficult year.
Bars, pubs and clubs were open and ready to welcome players after no new coronary artery restrictions was put in place this week.
And although some events were sold out, many venues drew only modest crowds after concerns about the ongoing proliferation of the Omicron variant.
The fireworks, which usually herald the start of a new year, were canceled by the town hall chiefs for the second year in a row.
Nevertheless, houses throughout Greater Manchester are setting up small exhibits in backyards and parks to ring into the new year.
Then, just after midnight, there were dramatic scenes on Deansgate as hundreds of people were evacuated from the One Eight Six bar.
Firefighters rushed to the scene when a fire broke out in the basement and 170 people were evacuated.
Three men were treated for smoke poisoning – two of whom were taken to hospital.
After a difficult year of hospitality, many hoped to attract large crowds to what is usually one of the biggest evenings of the year for the industry.
But Canal Street, Deansgate and the Northern Quarter – areas that would normally be ravaging – drew far fewer people than on a normal New Year’s Eve.
Deansgate and Peter Street, home to some of the city’s most popular venues, had sold-out events, and they were by far the busiest with queues abounding out of Impossible and Manahatta.
Exciting singing on top of their voices at The Millstone in the Northern Quarter, while partygoers danced all night long at the Albert Schloss on Deansgate.
Shazza Fierce, a drag queen who works at Churchill’s on Canal Street, said it had been a much quieter night than previous years.
But she said the bar staff were just happy that no more restrictions had been imposed.
“We just want everyone to be safe. It definitely feels different tonight,” she said.
Sue and Lexie, two friends out in the Gay Village, said they had fun but still feel “guilty” about it because of the high coronavirus infection rates
Sue said, “It does not feel the same as it used to.
“We’ve been here for years, but it was a huge effort just to get out tonight.”
Ben, Niamh and Holly said they ‘protected’ their tickets to an event at the Factory if more restrictions were to be imposed.
Holly said: “When things started to ride out, we certainly felt a little more cautious, but we feel okay getting out because the government kept the clubs open.”
Marshall, originally from Australia, was out with her friend Susan on Canal Street.
He said despite being quiet, Manchester feels completely different compared to stricter restrictions abroad.
“We just have to get on with our lives now,” Susan said.
Meanwhile, Sky and Mia were determined to have fun as they celebrated New Year’s Eve and Mia’s 19th birthday.
“We’ve not been to any big nights recently, so we’m really excited!” said Mia.