Boxpark Shoreditch moves to expand licensed hours amid complaints over early conditions
PUBLISHED: 10:12 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:12 22 August 2019
A "pop-up" mall in Shoreditch has applied to extend its booze licence as ex-tenants have told of their struggle to stay afloat.
Boxpark Shoreditch has applied to Hackney Council to extend its licensed hours in the main decking area.
If approved, the main bar will be able to serve alcohol from 8am to 11pm Monday to Thursday, 8am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 10am to 10.30pm on Sundays.
It comes despite historic opposition to the amount of drinking already taking place on the first floor from local families and campaigners - and the fact that in its original planning application in 2011, Boxpark Ltd had stated: "There will be no licensed premises within the development."
A spokeswoman for the company said: "The application specified a mix of A1-A3 units which includes permission for the sale of food and drink.
"Boxpark Shoreditch currently has an alcohol license in place and has applied for a variation to allow for sales until 12am."
Nine current occupants at the Bethnal Green Road venue, which rents out recycled shipping containers to retailers, have their own licences.
Earlier this month Boxpark also announced plans to expand dramatically across the UK, with 10 new venues set to open over the next five years.
An investigation this week by the Gazette's sister paper, the Brent & Kilburn Times, has found tenants at the fledgling Boxpark Wembley site are struggling to make ends meet due to high, rigid overheads - including rent and service charges of £52,500 a year - and apparently low footfall.
Three have left since Boxpark Wembley opened in December 2018 and current tenants have described their first nine months as "a disaster".
Former occupants at Shoreditch have told the Gazette they had faced similar issues on opening.
Initially, they said, they were paying pre-agreed rents of £20-£25,000 a year and some spent up to £150,000 to fit out their units.
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One trader, who asked not to be named, said: "Rents were high and within weeks of opening other small operators like us were up in arms. Financially it cost us the best part of £150,000. It put us off expanding and subsequently we closed."
At least two companies, Foxcroft & Ginger and La Catrina, put their Boxpark-based companies into liquidation in 2014.
Other companies including Hackney-based Sutton & Sons had their Boxpark entities struck off the register.
It is understood that despite Boxpark's original statement, at least one unit at Boxpark Shoreditch had alcohol licences from day one of trading.
Chris Singam, the owner of Hackney-based Caribbean chain Cottons, said his firm joined Boxpark Shoreditch in 2013 and left in 2017.
The chain spent more than £85,000 fitting out its Rhum Shack unit and secured a licence for the terraced area outside.
Mr Singam said his firm left in an ensuing row over noise complaints across the venue, while Boxpark itself went on to pursue a licence for the whole top floor in 2017.
He said: "We spent in excess of £85,000 kitting out the unit and the terrace. The refurbishment was the beginning of a very strained relationship with the owners."
Another ex-tenant said selling alcohol was the only way some retailers could make rent in 2013.
They added that some had been "entranced" by the possibility of making a lot of money "only to find some months later that it is simply not viable unless you sell alcohol."
Current traders at Shoreditch reported that business was good, but several other food businesses had recently left and one said the atmosphere remained "fierce".
A spokeswoman for Boxpark said: "Boxpark Shoreditch has over a million visitors a year and has created hundreds of jobs for the local community.
"It has evolved since beginning trading in 2011. We are not experiencing any significant issues with tenants on this site."
She added: "Our tenants are the lifeblood of Boxpark. We work with them as partners and support them when they are struggling."