A devastated couple have a fortnight to find a new wedding venue – after Cardiff’s Grade II listed Coal Exchange was suddenly shut over safety concerns.
Cardiff council said the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service had served a prohibition notice which deemed parts of the building as not safe and posed a risk to the public because there were no adequate means of escape in the event of a fire.
Macob, the 127-year-old building’s owners, said the decision followed a detailed structural assessment and it was working with the authorities to rectify the issues.
Christine Barratt, 27, and fiancé Alyn Luker, 25, from Penarth, were told the news on Wednesday while on a recce with their photographer ahead of their wedding on June 15.
They booked 18 months ago but now have just two weeks to find somewhere else, while working out if they can be reimbursed through a refund or insurance.
Bride-to-be Christine said: “They had a conference on and were packing stuff up – we spoke to the guy there who has been sorting it out, who took us to one side and told us it was closing, that they had health and safety people in and had issues with access.
“When he first told me about it, I didn’t want to believe him.”
Christine had planned the wedding since Alyn got down on bended knee in Cardiff Bay two years ago.
“We had looked at other places but the Coal Exchange was so unique looking, vintage and with so much history,” she said.
“Me and my fiancé’s background is in film and television – Doctor Who was shot there and things like that – it had some sort of meaning and character to us so, yeah, it’s quite a shame really.”
Now the couple have a race against time to save their big day.
The Coal Exchange reopened as a live music and events venue in 2009. Macobs has planning permission to transform it into a mix of office space and flats, but the scheme stalled because of the economic downturn.
In February, the council’s cabinet member for economy Russell Goodway said “exciting proposals” for the building’s refurbishment would be brought forward by the council, without revealing any detail.
Mike Johnson, director of the events organiser Coal Exchange Group, said: “As leaseholder I have been informed at this stage we can’t let the public access the building.”
A council spokesman said: “A prohibition notice has been served by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service which deemed parts of the Coal Exchange building as not safe and posed a risk to the public because there were no adequate means of escape in the event of a fire.
“In addition, Cardiff council’s public protection team also visited the Coal Exchange to investigate risks to the health, safety and welfare of businesses operating from this building, this investigation is ongoing.
“Both South Wales Fire Service and Cardiff council are both fulfilling their statutory duties in regard to public and business safety and it is now up to the owners of the Coal Exchange to make the building safe for the public to use.”
Macob director David Walters said: “It is extremely regrettable that the Coal Exchange has been closed at such short notice with the obvious inconvenience it has caused not only to our tenant, The Coal Exchange Ltd who runs the event hall, but also to all of its customers who had bookings.
“It is particularly regrettable that this has impacted on the couple who had a wedding booked in a couple of week’s time.
“The decision to close the event hall was taken by Cardiff council and the South Wales Fire Service following a detailed structural assessment. The safety of those who use the building is of paramount importance, and we are working closely with Cardiff council and the South Wales Fire Service to rectify the issues identified.”