Media company Time Out will no longer open a massive food hall in Waterloo. The Time Out Market at the station just south of the river has been curtailed by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Propel.
Time Out released a statement today, 23 March, which said:
“Following recent media enquiries, Time Out Group confirms its subsidiary, Time Out Markets Central London, has informed London & Continental Railways it no longer intends to proceed with the development of Time Out Market London (Waterloo) due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.”
It signed a lease on a two-floor, 32,500 square foot space in late 2018, at the time promising to bring “17 of the city’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs” to its new home. It did so in the context of a boom time for food halls in London, in the context of a city with both a growing appetite for food halls, and a growing understanding of the reality of spaces often airily characterised as “democratic” or “for everyone.” Market Halls Victoria and Fulham were soon be joined by Market Halls West End; Arcade Food Theatre had opened below empty luxury apartments at Centre Point; Kerb had opened Seven Dials Market. There was momentum.
The Covid-19 pandemic stopped that momentum in its tracks. Kerb has been able to reopen partially, while Market Halls and Arcade have not reopened at all. Where the cherrypicking gamification of restaurant-going was previously convenient for diners and lucrative for food hall operators, the impact of the coronavirus crisis has stalled restaurant economies reliant on high, changeable footfall — that of workers and tourists that once flooded a central London now quietened. Where food halls were a tool for landlords to raise other property prices, be they commercial offices or residential flats, they are now dormant, while operators with resources can move in on vacated restaurants with more negotiating power than they previously had.
The Waterloo news is also the latest in a string of failures for the brand in London. It’s been trying to open a food hall in Spitalfields for years, but has failed to assuage residents’ concerns about the impact of a market on the area, in a city where “theme parks of fashionable food” have brought with them social and economic changes that have priced and pushed residents out of communities that were there before the halls arrived.
More soon on the impact of the coronavirus crisis on food halls in London.