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Ten things to Consider When Developing a Rooftop Venue

May 9, 2019    |   Panny Antoniou

With the limited availability of space in London, there has been a growth in the number of rooftop venues as developers look to maximise space.

Rooftop venues, once a rarity in London have become a far more common occurrence in the capital in recent years as developers look to make use of underutilised space in their property and provide an additional source of income. In addition, rooftop venues around London have often become destinations in their own right with locations including Pergola, the Queen of Hoxton, The Ned London, and Aqua becoming well known as places to visit. This additionally assists large developers with their placemaking strategies when creating the next “up and coming” London submarket.

However, there are a number of factors which a developer must consider when looking at a rooftop venue and, in this article, we will look at ten factors to consider when looking to create a rooftop venue:

1. Outdoor Space:

Whilst not essential for a rooftop venue, outdoor space is often desirable. However, it is important to note that the higher up the location, the less outdoor space it is likely to have. However, this is beginning to change with many new developments including London’s Walkie Talkie Building integrating a rooftop space in the design.


One of the features which is often associated with rooftop space is the view. However, an iconic view is not necessarily essential when creating a great outdoor space. Often, the experience of the space is more highly valued that having a world class view. Indeed, many well known London rooftop spaces including Pergola have almost no view at all, being situated in an area which is unsuitable for breathtaking panoramas. Additionally, many operators have made the point that depth of view is more important than content of view. A cityscape of any kind is viewed as appealing from a few floors up.

3. Customer Lifts

One of the most important factors to consider when creating a new rooftop space for the public is how your customers will get there. Most operators would argue that multiple customer lifts are preferred except for the smallest and lowest rise venues. However, there are significant examples of experience led rooftop venues such as the Queen of Hoxton not having lifts and not being affected by this. Ultimately, customers are often able to forgive a difficult access point if the experience which the venue provides is worth it.

4. Access from Ground Floor

Most operators are not demanding about the amount or the quality of entrance space, with many of the properties which boast fantastic views often preferring to downplay the entrance space in order to maximise the impact which the view has on customers. However, when a building is primarily used for other purposes, avoiding customers conflicting with other users of the building and having a dedicated night-time entrance becomes increasingly important. In addition, for smaller venues, it is also important to have a method to manage capacity as well as being able to manage queues at street level in order to avoid conflicting with surrounding tenants.

5. Rooftop Machinery, Equipment, and Maintenance

Buildings which already have existing uses often have4 machinery which is used for maintenance or utilities on the roof. Often it is costly to move this elsewhere and must be balanced with a landlord’s long-term objectives for the property. In addition, airflow for cooling and heating and the distribution of power throughout the building is likely to require modification regardless of this in order to be able to accommodate higher capacity workloads.

6. Service Access

One thing which is often not considered when examining the suitability of a rooftop is goods access for food, beverages, waste disposal, and other purposes. Most operators generally argue that at least one high capacity service lift is required. Similarly to customer lifts, it may be possible to extend an existing lift shaft upwards however it is important to consider the impact which new lift shafts may have on overall building values as useable space is taken up as well as what effect extending a lift shaft upwards may have on the structural integrity of a building.

7. Lease Length and Terms

As with many office and retail operators who often occupy the floors below, rooftop venues require a number of bespoke fixtures and fittings. This often means that operators would prefer longer lease terms. In addition, depending on the use and concept behind the rooftop venue, many operators may require the ability to sub let a space in their lease. For example, many rooftop venues play host to a wide range of different street food stall, each independently owned and run with the leaseholder of the rooftop simply providing the other lessees with a venue.

8. Fit Out Costs

The presence of restaurant and/or leisure operators with strong covenants on long term leases often means increased landlord contributions to fit out costs. Capital contributions have long been commonplace for new office buildings with this only just starting to come into play for many leisure operators. However, operators should note that these contributions by the landlord will almost always be linked to the fabric and maintenance of a building. For further information on fit outs, take a look at our article about different categories of office fit out.

9. Fire Safety Strategy

Unless a property is a new build with a rooftop venue space integrated into the design, most floors of existing buildings will not have been constructed with large crowds of over 100 people in mind. As a result, fire safety and evacuation procedures are, arguably, the most important aspect to consider when looking at a rooftop with potential to become a new venue. Understanding how to get everyone out safely and the exit routes required is essential in order to have a venue which does not put members of the public at risk.

10. Signs and Advertising

The signage and advertising requirements of a rooftop venue operator may vary depending on the nature of their business, as well as the location of the rooftop. For example, signage for a city centre rooftop bar with an office building occupying the rest of the premises may be much more conspicuous than a rooftop restaurant in a secondary location which relies more on social media marketing and word of mouth.

More Information:

These are just some of the factors to consider when looking to transform the rooftop in your property into London’s latest rooftop bar, restaurant, or event space. Do not hesitate to contact one of our expert property advisors if this is something which you require assistance with or you need further advice. RIB are always happy to help our clients, both new and existing!

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