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And there are no stingrays in sight

When new city centre restaurant and bar 1761 announced that they were installing a giant fish tank complete with stingrays in their basement bar – it caused a bit of a stir.

Marine life lovers were up in arms, citing the decision as a ‘gimmick’, ‘disgraceful and cruel’ and they promised to boycott the place in droves.

As it turns out, initial reports were somewhat exaggerated. “Everyone knows you can’t keep stingrays in a fish tank,” owner Phil Healey told us, hinting that the PR company looking after the restaurant launch might have been a little over-enthusiastic in their description of the aquarium’s contents.

After months of careful planning, designing, building and installing, the eco-system is now ready and open to the public. And it’s important to note that the 34 foot tank filled with 18,000 litres of water is not a fish tank, but in fact a reproduction of a natural ecosystem akin to a tropical barrier reef.

It will contain the types of fish that naturally swim together in the wild such as yellow and blue tangs, puffer fish, dory, emo and clown fish – with no predators of course. Marine plant life such as seaweed and different types of coral will evolve and grow so that the tank will bed in and look different over time. Shrimp, starfish, crabs and sea urchins will be busy cleaning the tank in the same way they happily grub about in the ocean.

LED lights mimic the natural environment by changing colour throughout the day from whitish grey to different shades of blue. A wave machine will alter the direction of the current to replicate the ebb and flow of the tide and a specialist team of experts will be permanently on call – connected to a special app on their phone which will immediately notify them of any imbalance or significant changes in the water quality.

Inspectors from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS)  – the UK’s leading charity for the protection of our seas, shores and marine wildlife, have endorsed the tank and approved its contents. In their honour, Lily’s have concocted a special Oceana cocktail, containing samphire infused Three Rivers Gin, limoncello, lychee, coconut and lemon garnished with a sprinkle of spirulina, dill and a sea spray mist. For every Oceana sold, Lily’s will donate £1 to MCS to help fund their conservation programmes. They are aiming to help raise at least £4000 a year.

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Oceana Cocktail

But why has Phil invested half a million pounds on a tropical aquarium in his basement bar? Lily’s bar (named after Madame Lily Bollinger, of the famous Champagne producing family) was always destined to be the ultimate escape from the city above. Phil wanted to create the ultimate relaxing environment; a comfortable space to while away the afternoon and evening, lulled by the hypnotic rhythms of shoals of brightly coloured fish swimming by.

The 34 foot aquarium spans the centre of the room, so whether you’re sitting high on a bar stool sipping a cocktail or working through a bottle of wine on one of the low tan leather sofas, there’ll always be something to capture your interest. The tranquillity of the ecosystem reflects the timeless chilled out atmosphere of the bar – just absolutely, under no circumstances bang on the glass!

1761 and Lily’s Bar, 2 Booth Street, Manchester, M2 4AT

Open Monday-Thursday 5pm – 10pm, Friday 5pm – 12am, Saturday 12pm – 12am, Sunday 12pm – 9pm