Blink and you missed it – popular Crystal Palace bar’s rapid rise and fall

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Service

A popular Crystal Palace bar which served drinks for the last time on New Year’s Eve has blamed rising costs and uncertainty over the future of its site for its sudden closure.

Varanda, in Westow Street, was opened in 2020 in a building which is supposed to be redeveloped.

In part of the demolished building, Claire Munnelly and Jason Bacon transformed a courtyard full of rubble and fly-tipping into a bar with space for more than 200 people.

But in a Facebook post, Varanda announced its closure, saying: “Regretfully the cost of consistent winter-proofing, maintaining, stocking, staffing and keeping up with ever-rising costs of this temporary venue has meant we would need to hike prices or make too many compromises to move forwards into 2023.

“Coupled with the uncertainty around the development of the site and the innate problems with the site – considerable investment would be required to fix the numerous building issues.”

Plans for a hotel were approved in 2015 on land behind Victory Place and Carberry Road and in 2018 the developer said a new M&S store was interested in opening on the ground floor. 

However, in August 2022 the owners, St Aidans Holdings, submitted a change to the planning approval and added more flats into the Crystal Palace Market Square development which also includes a Marks and Spencer food hall. 

The flats replaced the previous hotel proposals bringing the total number of properties in the development up to 43 from 33. The latest plans have received 10 objections as well as two supporting and two neutral comments. 

A planning statement reads: “The proposals still include the creation of jobs for the local community of Crystal Place and the borough of Croydon beyond, and by providing a mixture of spaces, with different uses blended into the one development, the scheme will deliver all that it promises and more. 

“This application simply refines the scheme to enable it to move to the next stage i.e. the delivery phase.” 

The updated plans are yet to be decided by Croydon Council. 

Picture top: The Varanda bar in Westow Street (Picture: Tara O’Connor) 

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