Picture by Ed Nix

The Market Tap will be opening up in Oxford’s Covered Market this year, as part of an extensive regeneration project of one of Oxford’s most famous sites – Oxford’s Covered Market.

A courtyard for food and drink, outside tables, new units selling a variety of takeaways and beverages, entertainment, music and evening opening hours are all being planned.

Tap Social is the latest to be joining the drive, alongside Eynsham Cellars’ wine shop and Church Hanbrewery’s Teardrop Bar, to make Oxford’s famous indoor market into a fun, vibrant, diverse, happening, new city centre hotspot, by opening in the pavilion where Hedges Butchers used to be.

“It all happened really quickly,” Tap Social’s Tess Taylor told me. “We were invited to apply and have only just found out we were successful, so it’s really exciting.

“Oxford City Council is looking to do a whole regeneration of The Covered Market and opening our bar is one of their first moves.

Picture by Ed Nix

“The Market Tap will be the anchor and then hopefully other food and drink venues will follow suit. We are here to get the project going and we can’t wait,” Tess grins.

We are talking in Tap Social HQ on the Botley Industrial Estate which opened as a communal space and brewery three years ago to rehabilitate prisoners into the work place.

Tap Social is also opening a new pub/restaurant The White House on Abingdon Road this year (Read all about it here: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/tap-socials-christmas-fair-at-the-white-house-on-oxfords-abingdon-road-before-re-opening-next-year/), so there’s a lot going on.

Cllr Mary Clarkson joins Tap Social’s Amy and Tess Taylor. Picture by Ed Nix

But first The Market Tap aims to kickstart the new look Covered Market with a large communal eating and drinking area.

“People can buy a drink from us, or another drink vendor such as Teardrop Bar or Eynsham Cellars, who have already opened up there, purchase some food from somewhere like The Souvlaki Brothers, the Alpha Bar or Sasi’s Thai, sit in the communal seating area and enjoy the atmosphere,” Tess explains.

A full schedule of events from poetry and music, to spoken word and comedy, is also lined-up, with organisers aiming for a community feel.

“We want to turn it into somewhere like the Brixton Village Market. It would be so amazing to create somewhere with a vibe like that in the very centre of Oxford,” Tess adds.

Tap Social are opening a new bar in the old Hedges Butchers at The Covered Market, Oxford. Picture by Ed Nix

“It’s a big endeavour for everybody but a really exciting one. We can’t wait to be part of it, and hope to increase the footfall and put The Covered Market back on the map,” she adds.

So why was Tap Social called in? “I think because the city council liked our community feel, the way we cater for everyone and make them all welcome.

“At Tap Social we celebrate diversity in Oxford and it’s really important that we bring the same feel to the Covered Market to ensure a real mix of people of all ages, and we are really excited about attracting that mix. We want to make it as good as possible.

“And the Covered Market is such an under used space. We want to help create a new vibe there and bring the locals back, to make it somewhere people want to hang out and spend their time, rather than leaving it to the tourists.

“It’s such an amazing space; the history, the ceiling, the architecture. The Covered Market is such an asset to this city and we need to use it more in the day and at night. So while the day will be more retail focused, the night will bring a new footfall where people will stay to enjoy,” she adds. “It’s definitely in keeping with what we do here already.”

With art commissioned from Huntercombe Prison in Henley, and plans to brew a collaborative ‘market beer’, the project is already gathering pace.

“We have got a brilliant team at the moment and although opening a new premises brings its own set of challenges we are passionate and driven to make this a success and plugging the mission behind them,” Tess adds.