Thursday 8 July, 5:51 p.m.: This story has been updated with comment from Market Halls.
Massive London food hall group Market Halls is set to reopen its complexes in Fulham, Victoria, and the West End this summer, after undergoing negotiations to secure its long-term future from “real risk.” It has set a date to reopen the Victoria food hall on 29 July, while the other two locations are due to reopen later.
The three food halls have been closed since March 2020, with company voluntary arrangement (CVA) proposals designed to prevent them from collapsing launched in June 2021. These proposals — familiar to any diners with a passing interest in nearly every restaurant chain in the U.K. casual dining market, from Jamie Oliver to Pizza Express — involve a company settling its debts, most often by not paying them in full.
In Market Halls’ case, the landlords at each food hall (likely the biggest creditors owed) have reached separate agreements, so are not part of the proposals. This is an illustration of a situation countless restaurants are facing: With rent debt built up and no government intervention on repayment in place, the future of a place and its workers can often rest on whether or not its landlord is in a generous mood. A spokesperson for Market Halls told Eater that “There were certainly complex and difficult decisions made and entering into CVAs was certainly one of those. The future of Market Halls would have been at risk without the CVAs, so although it was a forced and unwanted action caused by the pandemic, it has certainly helped us come through the other side, providing us a route to keeping our halls alive.”
Market Halls Victoria, in particular, was once London’s hottest food hall — signing up a miniature version of one of the city’s best udon bars, Koya; a bun-slinging kiosk from outstanding pub the Marksman; and Gopal’s Corner, a spin-off of Euston favourite Roti King for its opening in 2018. By summer 2019, both Bunshop and Koya had left the building. Its third and largest hall, in the West End, sought to iterate on Victoria’s success moreso than repeating its trick of making big signings: Gopal’s Corner doubled up, and stalwarts like Super Tacos (a spin-off from Breddos Tacos), steak chef Tom Griffiths’ Flank, dumpling steamers BaoziInn, and vegan bowl specialist Cook Daily joined.
While Victoria plans to reopen and Fulham remains dormant, the West End food hall has started the run-up by opening a pop-up bar in order to show Euro 2020, in association with BrewDog. The partnership comes within weeks of the brewery being widely accused of fostering a “culture of fear” among its staff, and when asked about the nature of such a partnership, the spokesperson said:
We engaged Brewdog as a beer provider for Market Halls before this news broke. We are fully aware of the press the brand has received recently and have been monitoring it with keen eyes as well as asking many questions ourselves.
We encourage businesses of all shapes and sizes to make healthy change and ensure their team cultures are the best they possibly can be. It is something that we have specifically worked on in the lockdown hibernation period and an area of the company we have committed to doing better. Ensuring anyone who comes into contact with Market Halls is assured of our integrity and dedication to making what we do fun.
We applaud those at BrewDog who felt the need to speak out for doing so and we believe the end result will be positive change for the better. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep a close eye on the brand’s response to the situation to ensure accountability.
Market Halls also announced plans to open a complex in Canary Wharf in 2019, which will, according to its spokesperson, proceed for a 2022 opening. More soon on the reopening of Market Hall Fulham and West End.