Fruit and veg store transformed into market... but boss insists new name isn’t political
The Protocol may be continuing to upset the apple cart, but the old Arnott’s fruit warehouse in Belfast has been renamed the Common Market as the building starts a new chapter as a street-food venue.
Organiser Will Neill insisted there was no political agenda behind the name — the old term for the EU Single Market — apart from conveying the common purpose of housing independent street-food vendors.
While not a listed building, Arnott’s has nonetheless been a distinctive feature of Dunbar Street for many years, its front wall painted in light green with a dark green ‘Arnott’s’ motif.
But it has now been repainted white and the name ‘Common Market’ added.
The Common Market morphed over time into the European Single Market, of which Northern Ireland is still a member under the controversial Protocol.
The new street food market concept is the latest incarnation for Arnott’s, which was to have been transformed into a night-time venue by the owners of the Limelight.
Despite winning planning permission last year to turn it into an events space, it is understood that Limelight Belfast Ltd has now walked away from the project.
Belfast City Council confirmed that no further planning applications had been received for the site.
However, a council spokeswoman confirmed Carlisle Inns had applied for a temporary liquor licence for the venue during the Cathedral Quarter Festival from July 23 to August 19.
Around two years ago, site owner Conway Group was revealed to be planning a hotel for Dunbar Street, though the project was not advanced.
Eight food vendors from all over Belfast will now be selling their wares from Common Market, including Baps by Freight, a spin-off from the existing Freight restaurant business.
The other businesses include Oui Poutine, which sells the French Canadian dish of fries, cheese curds and gravy. All vendors are required to offer a vegan and vegetarian option.
Three bars are also part of the venture, including a spin-off from nearby Lux.
The Common Market will open Thursdays to Sundays from midday to midnight, with a stage set up for music and DJs.
Mr Neill said he hoped that the new venture would be able to stay on the site for up to four years.
He is also bringing a food market to Bankmore Square on the city’s Dublin Road, which is to be the eventual location of new offices belonging to IT firm Kainos plc, through his social enterprise Box Office.
“My overall goal is to reanimate several disused spaces in areas of the city through food-led hospitality and bring them back to their former glory, though this part of town has never really had its moment of glory,” he added.
“But there’s no political agenda behind the name, for sure, though we do know that Common Market was previously the term for the EU. But we do have a social mission to provide space to independent food vendors.
“It’s very expensive to be in the city. We want to give people the opportunity to sell their goods.”