Bid to extend drinks licence at Spitalfields sparks City ‘superpub’ fears

Spitalfields bosses want to serve alcohol at the 17th-century market later into the evening, despite neighbours’ fears that it will turn it into a City-fringe “superpub”.

The 350-year-old former fruit and vegetable market hosts stalls selling vintage fashion, art, records and food. 

The market’s owners want some stalls to be able to sell alcohol seven days a week until 9pm, two hours later than the current licence allows.

Old Spitalfields Market, run by Irish property developer Aidan Brooks, said in its application to Tower Hamlets council the extended hours would help the firm’s “vision” of creating London’s “very best market and retail destination”. 

Bosses also want to screen films and host sports matches, concerts and shut down parts of the market for private events, when drinking time would be extended even later.

But families living in flats above Spitalfields claim they are already plagued by bad behaviour, litter and food smells seeping into their homes. 

They are concerned there will be drunken “chaos” if revellers stay later.

Objector Michael Kay said he feared it was a plan to “convert it into a gigantic pub and some form of ‘indoor’ arena” which he said “will make life intolerable for the residents”.

Susan Kay said she feared Spitalfields would become a “superpub” making local people feel “under threat” and “uncomfortable”. 

Resident Laura Parkes said they “already tolerate an extreme level of noise pollution and anti-social behaviour originating from Spitalfields market and the surrounding area in the evenings, which appears to be caused by alcohol consumption”. 

She added: “Granting the application will only make this problem worse and will inevitably impact adversely on the residents’ quality of life.” 

Pat Jones, in another objection, wrote: “The later drinking hours will basically establish an alcohol-fuelled party atmosphere and the market will no longer be safe for children to walk through.”

The Spitalfields Society said they were working with Mr Brooks to try to improve conditions for residents. 

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The City of London Corporation owns the freehold to the renovated site, which has been leased to Mr Brooks since 2015 through Isle of Man-based Old Spitalfields Market Ltd. Mr Brooks did not respond to requests for comment. 

Tower Hamlets council declined to comment ahead of today’s meeting.

Writing to residents about the application, Spitalfields manager Toby Brown said: “In light of the meetings and the conversations that I and Mr Brooks have had with members of the community, we do fully understand your concerns. We would however like to reassure you that our application will have a positive impact on the local area.” 

He added that the area where alcohol can be consumed will not exceed 10 per cent of the market, apart from 26 “special events” per year.

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