Business

Licence granted for new Cathedral Quarter bar and club

Common Market on Belfast's Dunbar Street. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Michael Kenwood

A LICENCE has been granted for a new bar and club at Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, despite objections concerning safety at the site, including asbestos issues.

At Belfast City Council’s Licensing Committee this week (October 20) elected members approved an application for a seven day annual indoor entertainments licence for Common Market, a new bar at the site of the old Arnott’s fruit warehouse at Dunbar Street. Councillors followed the recommendation of approval from council officers.

The applicant, Alana Fox of Carlisle Inns, 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.

Elected members at the licensing committee heard from the application’s sole objector, John Morgan, who himself was involved in a previous application for the provisional grant of an entertainment licence for the premises.

That application was considered and approved by the committee in December, 2018. The company he represented then dropped the property over asbestos concerns.

A council report on the application said Mr Morgan, who now owns a bar in nearby Tomb Street, stated his main concern was the safety and welfare of the patrons of the premises and businesses in the immediate vicinity of Common Market.

He said Common Market was effectively a “pop up pub,” it lacked planning permission for the current use, had inadequate provision of emergency exits, and the PSNI was not aware of the application.

He said an opinion from an expert as to whether or not the asbestos could be released by sound energy or rhythmic movement would not “meet reasonable due diligence without physical on-site tests”.

He also raised concerns regarding acoustics, fire compliance, toilet provision, emergency access and egress and noise nuisance in the neighbouring area.

The applicant said the objection was “a commercial objection which is unfounded, without merit and does not stand up to scrutiny”.

The council officer report states: “The existing roof of this building is covered with profiled cement-based sheets which contain asbestos. An asbestos report was submitted with the application, although the report did not mention the effect that loud music may have on the asbestos sheets. The applicant provided a further specialist report which detailed air sampling before and after playing loud music.

“This report was provided to the Health and Safety Unit within the City and Neighbourhood Services Department, which has confirmed that the report by the asbestos analyst indicates that noise-induced asbestos fibre release is unlikely and, subject to the duty holder’s ongoing responsibility to manage the asbestos containing materials within the premises, it would have no concerns.”

Regarding exit safety, the report states: “The occupancy is restricted to 350 persons at this time due to emergency exit provision. A fire engineer has provided a strategy to ensure that adequate measures are in place to allow the 350 patrons to escape safely. If in future the applicant wishes to increase the capacity, then additional emergency exits will be required.”

A council officer told the committee: “We will continue to have a controlling role. If it transpires that the entertainment they are providing goes outside what has been outlined in the asbestos report then we would have to look very carefully at what additional measures might be required. But we will keep an eye on what is proposed.”

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the PSNI made no objections to the application.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access