The Owl: New Kirkgate Market pub draws mixed reactions from traders

By Richard Liddle

The announcement of a new pub in Kirkgate Market has been met with a mix of concern and optimism by current traders.

Masterminded by Masterchef contestant Liz Cottam – who also runs HOME restaurant in Leeds – and Michelin star-winning chef Mark Owens, The Owl will serve whole roast fish and game alongside local beers and fine wines on tap.

However, several traders expressed worry over the pub’s impact on the rest of the market.

One trader on Fish and Game Row, where the pub will be situated, said: “It’ll add a string to the market’s bow, but when you look at the deeper complexities it’s quite worrying.”

“What do we want a pub in here for? People are going to go in, eat, and leave.”

He claimed that because the pub is being given six months’ free rent, it risks diluting existing traders’ business while not providing any extra investment in the market.

Leeds City Council was asked to confirm if any financial incentive had been offered to The Owl but was unable to comment due to commercial confidentiality.

“There are people who have been here for generations and they could end up pushed out,” the trader said.

“But the pub could be there six months, go under, and they won’t have lost a penny.”

Kam Singh, owner of Toolbox for 14 years, also has concerns.

“What do we want a pub in here for? People are going to go in, eat and leave.”

He believes that the opening of the pub is the latest example of market management ignoring the concerns of traders when planning changes to the market.

Other contentious decisions include prioritising the new canteen over long-standing stalls and the loss of the car park to Victoria Gate shopping centre, meaning customers are now less likely to buy larger items.

“Traders that have worked here for years finally have enough and go to hand in their notice. And the managers aren’t bothered. They don’t ask what the problem is or what they need,” Singh added.

“I think it’s good, anything different is good. It’s a completely different niche.”

However, other traders have reacted optimistically to the news.

Malcolm Michaels, who runs a butchers in the market, believes that the pub will help to draw in new customers.

“I think it’s good, anything different is good. It’s a completely different niche.”

He says that a gastropub will encourage food-lovers who would normally go to nearby upmarket chains such as John Lewis or Harvey Nichols to instead come to the market to eat, increasing footfall.

The Owl also aims to source as many of its ingredients as possible from market stalls to give a further boost to the market’s trade.

What do you think?