Altrincham Market has been completely reconfigured in preparation for its reopening this weekend – but the change has resulted in more seats becoming available for visiting diners.
Some have questioned how compatible Market House – so renowned for its communal spirit and bustling atmosphere – would be given the need to comply with social distancing regulations.
But speaking to Altrincham Today, market co-owner Nick Johnson explained that while it had been a “big learning curve”, he was confident that the changes the market had made would preserve its “spirit” for customers.
“We’re remarkably resilient and the versatility of the space is fantastic,” he said. “We are operating in a slightly different way but will still deliver the Market House experience.”
The space in Market House – which usually has around 200 covers – and the covered market has been redesigned in order to space out the tables.
The changes mean the eating area is now more sprawling but, with the size of covered market stalls reduced, the total number of covers is now 320.
Visitors must queue for entry via the Market Street entrance, and will then be allocated a table.
Orders must then be made from the table – no wandering between traders, in other words – with menus available via a website (and an Alt.Eats app will be downloadable from next week).
Johnson has resisted the urge to bring in a bookings system.
“The whole spirit of Market House is that you can just turn up,” he said, “and with a bit of perserverance you’ll get seated.”
“It’s a really delicate balancing act, but we want people to experience Market House as they knew it without too many impositions. It’s a challenge we feel we can deal with.
“It’s a big learning curve for us, there’s a whole set of rules for compliance we have to take on board. We will need a little bit of patience, but we know there’s a massive amount of support for us.”
What will certainly be familiar for visitors will be the food traders, with the likes of Honest Crust, Tender Cow (now in a bigger unit), The Great North Pie Company, Reserve Wines and Jack in the Box beers all back open.
The one change during lockdown has been Wolfhouse, which has moved on and been replaced by Pico’s Tacos, already a favourite at Mackie Mayor in Manchester and a big takeaway success in recent weeks.
There’ll be food traders on the Pott Street side of the market, too, including Chilli B Thai and a second Honest Crust stall.
Everyone, says Johnson, is “desperate” for the reopening.
The market has launched a takeaway service from scratch during lockdown, something Johnson says has been a success – if not its natural territory.
“Our strapline is ‘not available online’ – we’re deliberately meant to be the antidote to that online experience – so we’ve had to change the strapline to ‘reluctantly available online’ for now,” he added.
“Everyone is raring to go, they want to see all the familiar faces back.
“Yesterday we had all the staff together for a health and safety meeting, and it was the first time I’ve seen people together in one space for ages. It was a delight to feel the warmth of human company, and you simply can’t get that online. It will be great to feel that again.”
Altrincham Market reopens on Saturday at 9am and will be open every day until 10pm, except Monday (closed) and Sunday (closes at 6pm).