Hibernian and Raleigh Beer Garden owner Niall Hanley (who we profiled in August) is at last preparing to move on what may be his most ambitious project yet. Earlier this week, after a year of negotiations, Hanley signed a long-term lease for the fifteen-thousand square-foot-property at 411 W. Morgan St. in downtown Raleigh. During the course of the next year, Hanley will transform the former Jillian’s nightclub shell (which closed in 2006) into an indoor food court surrounded by a dozen or so separate kitchens and shared by local artisans and vendors. Hanley hopes to open the space in 2017.
“It’s going to be like a food court in a mall, but it’s just not a food court in a mall,” says Hanley. “It’s a food hall.”
The space, which has yet to be named, will be distinct from area communal kitchens such as The Cookery. Each business will have its own kitchen space and equipment and an individual miniature storefront. Folks can make their picks and then sit in a large communal area. Hanley hopes to have shops for wine, coffee, beer, cheese, and the like under the same roof, as well as kiosks for artisans. In many ways, the concept suggests a permanent version of a grand outdoor market, crossed with Atlanta’s Gunshow.
“In the middle of all this hustle and bustle, you and friends can meet up for dinner and go shopping afterwards,” Hanley says. “And then you can go shopping with all these people who are trying to get their start in the retail world.”
Hanley isn’t hoping for it to be too permanent, though. He wants some of the vendors to become so successful that they eventually need to go find larger spaces of their own.
“If it’s good stuff, people will come, and everyone will do well. And then some will do so well, they need a bigger space, so you bring in the next person,” he says. “It’s like a little incubator.”
Hanley is still weeks away from having renderings of the space and full branding, and he’s searching for a name for the concept—one that makes it clear what he’s trying to accomplish in the old brick nightclub.
“It’s got to have food hall and market in it,” he says. “We’ve got to tell people what we are doing.”