A hospitality war has erupted in the Merchant City after a popular events company lodged a booze license bid for a three-month, 300-cover pop-up venue on vacant space.

Keasim Events Ltd have scored up with Pop Up Pros as they propose to bring an event named Festival Village to Glasgow - featuring live music, street food and vendors. 

Development on the proposed grounds along Candleriggs Street has already begun and is estimated to be near complete despite there not yet being an approved temporary arrangement alcohol license.

Glasgow Times:

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Field owners in the area are now slamming the motion as premature as they attempt to recover from four months’ worth of lost business due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Gerry Febers, chairman of the Merchant City Pubwatch, told the Glasgow Times: “The biggest concern is that we are all coming back from lockdown, we’ve all been without an income for the past four months.

“They’ve built a temporary unit in there to open up and it will basically take away our livelihoods. It will make it a lot more difficult for businesses to survive.

"There's nothing here, the footfall is dead so by bringing in a bar of that size is directly tapping into our client base, which is completely unfair.

“Without a doubt, if the license is passed it will have a detrimental impact on our businesses. One has already closed across the road from us and won’t be opening up again.

“We’re already scraping on our knees because of lockdown. Things are hard and it is really quite alarming."

Glasgow Times:

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Owners warn that with the event posing a substantial threat to a drop in business, jobs will regrettably be put at risk.

Michael Dickson - who owns Bar 91 – told how employers have been “desperately” trying to keep their staff during the coronavirus lockdown as he condemned the bid for its timing.

He said: “It is really poor timing for a three-month license application to be lodged at this current time. I have absolutely no problem with their plans but it just sincerely bad timing at the moment.

“We are desperately trying to keep jobs as it is.

“For someone to put a bid in who doesn’t already operate in the Merchant City… is just wrong. It just isn’t the right timing unfortunately. Without a doubt, it poses a risk to all businesses in the area.

“We’ve been here for 25 years and we are certainly not immune to coronavirus. Our business, like everyone else’s business, is on its knees at the moment.

“Our only aim this year is to stay open and to create jobs. There will be no money made this year. It’s just to try and get back up and running as normal.

“We’ve all got out own customers and customer base, we’re all doing our own thing. The fact is, is that they’re from out-with the merchant city.

“They’ll come in for three months, take their money and run. We’ll be the ones left here struggling and made to pick up the mess. There is going to be casualties, without a doubt.”

The Merchant City venues have dubbed the competition that the application may bring as “unacceptable” as they reinvent their premises around the Scottish Government’s social distancing guidelines.

Michael added: “We’re trying our best to comply with social distancing and are adapting our businesses around new guidelines. If you go around the corner, you’ve got a 300-table bar just popping up.

“That kind of competition is unacceptable when our businesses have been the staple of the Merchant City community for decades now.”

Glasgow Times:

Metropolitan owner, Kevin Maguire, said: “For the last 18 years I have been busy developing - to the best of my ability with others – the Merchant City business profile.

“My particular position is that I have kept 45 staff furloughed some of the time and some of them paid in full from the day we closed.

“I’m doing that to protect employment and to protect Merchant City.

“It is unbelievable for anybody to think that they could come in here when we are all trying to open up and prove our financial position.

“I’m opening up tomorrow again after having to put six figures into my business to keep it alive. So, why should I stand back and watch somebody come in to feed off a Merchant City whim when those who are established there are struggling to live?”

Glasgow Times:

Local MSP Sandra White vigorously backed the city centre businesses – adding there is “no space” in the current time for a large-scale pop-up pub.

She said: “This is not appropriate for Merchant City. There is already three Irish bars within the area and there really does not need to be another.

“They are losing out on local business – there really is not space in this part of Glasgow for a large-themed pop-up pub.”

 A date for consideration of the bid is yet to be published in the authority's committee diary, however it is likely the meeting will take place next week.

Established business owners are calling on the council to closely consider the event's application as the Glasgow Times understands there has been around 40 to 50 objections in the area.

Gerry, who also owns The Pavement Bar, continued: "Everyone is trying to make a living as we don’t have a problem with people trying to earn that living but it is more to do with the fact it should have been considered another bar is not needed in that area at this present time.

“By doing that, there is the risk that some of the other places that have been there for decades won’t survive.

“We understand that the council are under great pressure and have been inundated with licence applications for outside seating. They need to look at it in the long-term and the impact this could have on the area for years to come.

“It is unprecedented times and I understand that, we’re not pointing fingers, but now it has been highlighted we ask them to take on our objections and make the right decision.

“We are all really, really concerned about the whole situation.”

A spokesman for Keasim Events and Pop Up Pros, said: “I understand that the local businesses have concerns about losing business however we are positive we will increase business for the entire area. Whenever we open a pop-up venue it immediately becomes a destination venue.

“We have achieved this in Edinburgh for the last few years and one local example of this is SW3G.

“People are currently travelling to the Finnieston just to go to that venue as it is social distance complaint, outside and safe.

“We are positive that this venue will have the same effect and will keep people in the area as well as attract much more people from around the city.

“We also only have a small capacity so when we are full people will go to surrounding businesses.

“We will close at 10pm every day so hundreds of people will be leaving this site to enter other businesses in the area.

“All these factors combined will actually increase business for all the people in the local area.

“Finally, we have currently employed over 100 new bar and restaurant staff that have unfortunately due to current circumstances been made redundant from their jobs. We had hoped by doing this event we can help the worst effected industry get back to work and also solidify the jobs of other hospitality staff in the area.”