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Squad takes creative lead at JW Lees’ new Manchester beer hall

Creative agency Squad has worked with JW Lees to develop new Manchester food and beer hall Founder’s Hall, which is now officially open.

Sitting on Albert Square, in the shadow of Manchester’s neo-gothic Town Hall, the space is a testament to JW Lees’ past, present and future. It’s a story of tradition, innovation and a passion for beer that started in 1828 with the opening of Greengate Brewery at Middleton Junction, six miles from the centre of Manchester.

Squad was instructed to develop a new format from scratch for the former Dutton’s Manchester site and worked with JW Lees on all aspects of it, from the name and branding, to interiors, food, drink and uniforms.

JW Lees’ brief was for a venue that would go beyond a traditional pub and celebrate nearly 200 years of brewing history and be a shrine to their full range of beers., while the concept also needed to sit comfortably in an urban building at the heart of a major city.

The name and concept for Founder’s Hall that Squad devised was rooted in honouring JW Lees’ founder, John Lees, in a modern food and beer hall environment. It’s a shrine to JW Lees’ beers, showcasing the range of cask ales, lagers, and Boilerhouse beers that Squad has branded over the last eight years.

The menu features nibbles, bar snacks and small plates perfect for pairing with a few pints or sampling something new with a beer flight. The main event is hand-crafted pressed pies, as well as some JW Lees pub favourites.

The space design and interiors scheme, which Squad worked on hand-in-hand with the JW Lees property team, is modern yet imbued with layers of time. It features materials, art and ephemera reclaimed from JW Lees’ brewery, mixed with a relaxed, industrial aesthetic conducive to clank and chatter, banter and grub – “the atmosphere of a great pub but not a pub.”

The branding used across the signage, interiors, website and marketing fuses the past and present, just like the interiors. At the centre of Squad’s mark is an illustration of John Lees created by Srdjan Vidakovic.

The type follows Squad’s approach across the JW Lees brand of using display typefaces with an industrial heritage and plenty of muscle.

William Lees-Jones, managing director at JW Lees, said: “We wanted a flagship venue to sit at the heart of the city where we were founded and still brew our beer. It needed to be a place to tell the story of our past but look forward to our future. The brand Squad has developed is everything we hoped for, and we look forward to an exciting future for it.”

Rob Gray, strategy / managing partner at Squad, added: “The idea to develop a new format for the Dutton’s site in Manchester was something we put forward when we first started working with JW Lees. It seemed the perfect site to develop a new format that would be the living embodiment of the modern traditional brewery strategy we developed together. It’s fantastic to see it now come to life.”

David Barraclough, creative partner at Squad, said: “Success for this venue was about creating something brand new but still indelibly JW Lees. We want it to feel like it has an atmosphere even before anyone has stepped inside or we turn the music on.”

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