Tap Social to Open New Bar in Oxford Covered Market

Feb 10 2020

Tap Social is set to open a new bar in Oxford Covered Market.


The award-winning social enterprise will take over the former Hedges Butchers unit to serve its range of locally-brewed craft beers. The new bar will be named The Market Tap.


Tap Social will also take over the management of the square outside the unit, and turn it into an event space with a full calendar of live music, theatre, film, poetry and comedy. The square will be filled with new tables and chairs, a new stage, and new decorations.


Plan to open this summer


Tap Social plans to open The Market Tap this summer, initially for a 12-month trial.


The aim is to open the new bar seven days a week, staying open until potentially 10pm or 11pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – but this late opening could be expanded to other evenings if the bar proves successful.


It is hoped that other Covered Market traders – particularly food and drink businesses – will open later to complement and benefit from the new bar and entertainment. Currently, the market closes daily at 5.30pm.


The plans will be subject to planning permission, listed building consent, and licensing.


Aims of the new bar


The aim is to bring more people – particularly Oxford residents – into the market, make better use of the historic space in the evenings, and increase the amount of time that people stop and dwell in the 18th century market.


The vision is for people to shop later in the evenings and to buy food and drink from a range of different traders, which they can consume in a buzzing central part of the market.


It also aims to bring more performances into the market, building on the success of the award-winning Creation Theatre’s performance of Don Quixote in the space last summer.


An award-winning social enterprise


Tap Social is an award-winning social enterprise that was established in 2016 to create training and employment opportunities, particularly for ex-offenders.


Alongside the community space and microbrewery in Botley and the main brewery site in Kennington, Tap Social is in the process of opening a new community café, bar and kitchen in Abingdon Road on the site of the White House pub.


Investment in the market


Oxford City Council, which manages the Covered Market, is currently investing £3.1m into the market to secure its long-term future. The investment includes £1.8m to secure the roof for another 60 to 80 years, and £1.3m for internal refurbishment.


In the run-up to Christmas, all 61 of the available units in the market – which is operated by Oxford City Council – were occupied.


The long-term aspiration is to transform the Covered Market to improve the entrances and facades in Market Street, High Street and the Golden Cross; make more of the communal spaces in the market; improve the existing units to enable more flexible and shared uses; and improve the market’s servicing.


The City Council is now looking at funding options and aims to produce the first iteration of the transformation proposals – known as a masterplan – by the end of 2020.


Oxford Covered Market, which first opened in November 1774 and is Grade II-listed, sells food, gifts, shoes, fashion, flowers and jewellery, and the market provides a unique showcase for the very best in local crafts, food and drink.


Paul Humpherson, Director of Tap Social, said: “After an incredible first few years in Botley, the whole team at Tap Social is really excited about the opportunity to bring our unique blend of inclusive and welcoming vibes and great craft beer to the heart of Oxford’s city centre.


“Our diverse and jam-packed calendar of music and performance events at the Market Tap will offer something for everyone and we can’t wait to start working with the City Council and our new neighbours, the other fantastic traders, to bring new life and soul to the historic Covered Market.”


Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for Culture and City Centre, said: “It is very exciting that the award-winning social enterprise Tap Social will be joining the Covered Market family.


“Alongside Creation Theatre’s performance of Don Quixote, the Alice in Wonderland sculptures and the pop-up opportunities for small businesses, this is another sign that we’re willing to try different ideas to keep the Covered Market thriving.


“We’re keen for the market to open late into the evening to match modern shopping habits and successful markets across the country, and we think the new bar and its entertainment calendar could be a catalyst to ensuring this happens.”