This project isn’t quite what was originally planned - what happened?
We were set to start the build at the beginning of March for a summer opening but as the pandemic took hold in the UK it became increasingly clear that the food market we were planning was no longer viable, at least not for 2020. Every single person involved had to think on their feet and adapt Shelter Hall, which is located under the arches on Brighton beach.
What were the main challenges?
For a start the build was delayed because of Covid-19 so we had to work out a way to speed it up and still open in the summer. What we had originally planned was fabulous but would have taken at least four months to pull together. We also had a reduced budget to work with and clearly we needed to ensure it was safe for post-lockdown trading. We have created Shelter Hall Raw, a stripped-back version of the original vision. Luckily the space is amazing so we haven’t needed to do that much to create something impressive. The plan is to close around the end of 2020 and open what was originally planned in early 2021, although we may make some modifications based on our experiences this year.
Tell us about the space…
As the name suggests it’s a raw offering. It has a festival, pop-up look and feel but it’s fully functional and we’ve invested heavily in health and safety features. The mezzanine level is not open apart from the toilets so we don’t have as many traders as Shelter Hall will. What opened last week is not the all singing, all dancing space that the next evolution will be, but we think people will like it.
Who do you have trading?
All the traders are local. We’re starting out with Fatto a Mano (Neapolitan pizza and a separate gelato stand), Lost Boys Chicken, Carlito Burrito, Brighton Coffee Works, Toasted by GB Charcuterie and Smorls (hummus and falafel). All are encouraged to use high quality local produce. During this initial period the contracts with our traders are short term. We have a model that has been designed to be highly flexible for all parties. Eventually we will have a total of 10 traders.
What safety measures are in place?
We were originally going to have large communal tables like you often see in food halls, but we now have smaller tables divided by art screens. Rather than putting the screens in at the eleventh hour we have designed them as an integral part of the structure, so they look great. There is a one-way system and will be very strict about the number of people in the venue at any one time. We had always planned to have online ordering but now it's online ordering only with food brought to people's tables or to a click-and-collect hatch. People log-in as they enter the site, which is really useful from a health and safety perspective.
What’s your background?
I was previously managing director at Deliveroo. I spent five years there before deciding to move on to launch a food hall business - we actually have a partnership with them that will see the food at the site available for delivery. I had a bird's eye view of trends in the industry and it was very clear that these flexible communal dining concepts with a local angle were in vogue that there was move away from larger brands. We’re planning to do more with our Sessions Market company - Bristol is currently a possibility.
Why Brighton and Hove?
The city was an obvious choice as it has fierce local identity and an amazing independent dining scene. We were very fortunate to find such a large space with such incredible heritage. The council spent a lot of money on the place and needed a partner to come and operate it in such a way that gave back to the local community. We only work with local restaurants and are big on locally made drinks and we also employ local artists and DJs. We even worked with a local designer on the building that understood the history of the location and the city. There are going to be a lot of tourists in Brighton and Hove this summer and we want to capture that of course but equally we want Shelter Hall to be a place for locals.