Common Market bar and venue on Dunbar Street looks set to expand its capacity by almost 1,000 persons, and will extend opening from 1am to 3am.
At the recent meeting of Belfast City Council ’s Licensing Committee, elected members approved a renewal and variation of an application for a seven day annual indoor entertainments licence for Common Market. The venue opened last year at the site of the old Arnott’s fruit warehouse at 16-20 Dunbar Street.
The applicant, Ms Alana Fox of Carlisle Inns Limited, is also the licensee for the licensed premises adjacent to Common Market, 39 Gordon Street and Lux.
In February 2020 the company was given planning permission to transform Arnott’s fruit warehouse into a 1,600 capacity venue, hosting live music and DJ’s.
However the venue only received a licence to provide indoor entertainment on the ground floor with a maximum capacity of 290 persons, and a maximum of 60 persons on the mezzanine Floor. The new variation will increase the occupancy of the ground floor to approximately 1,260 persons.
The council report states: “Although the venue can potentially accommodate approximately 1260 persons, due to limited exit capacity, when the licence was first granted the ground floor area was laid out as a seated area with large picnic tables and the occupancy was restricted to 290 persons.”
It adds: “The licensee plans to remove the picnic tables when events are to be held, therefore allowing for a significant increase in the occupancy capacity and (a consultant) is currently negotiating with the council to acquire permission for an additional emergency exit through the council depot on Dunbar Street, which would accommodate the increase in capacity."
The extra numbers will “not be permitted until an agreement is finalised between the council and the licensee for the use and management of an additional emergency exit which passes through the adjacent council depot.”
Previously the entertainment licence covered Monday to Saturday, midday to 1am the following morning, and Sunday, midday to midnight. The variation now allows entertainment Monday to Sunday, midday to 3am the following morning.
The council report states: “The applicant has stated that the extension of hours to 3am is needed to compete with other city centre venues. The applicant’s existing premises, 39 Gordon Street and Lux, which adjoins this venue, currently holds a 3am entertainments licence and this increase in operating hours would allow both venues to operate in harmony, allow the licensee to manage crowd control better, and improve their safety management protocols.”
The report adds: “A during-performance inspection was carried out on the premises by officers on 3rd October 2022. On this occasion, the licensee was operating his two premises as one “super-club.”
"The two premises Common Market and 39 Gordon Street are adjoined. 39 Gordon Street operates as a bar on the ground floor and a nightclub on the first floor. This inspection revealed some operational issues.
“The management was made aware of these issues and they advised that additional staff training and management procedures would be put in place prior to operating the venue in this manner in the future. The licensee has confirmed that the proposed increase in occupancy will be implemented incrementally to ensure that adequate management procedures are developed.”
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the PSNI made no objections to the application.