Almost four months have passed since the under-renovation Várkert Bazár (Castle Garden Bazaar) was reopened amid political pomp just before the national election on 6 April, then promptly closed again after the voting. Political expediency may also be at work in the choice of its shop tenants.
Magyar Nemzeti Vagyonkezelő Zrt., (the Hungarian Asset Management Company), which handles state property, announced this month that Hungarian retail chain CBA has been selected to open a supermarket in the northern row of the Várbazár.
CBA, with its slogan “a magyar üzletlánc” (the Hungarian retailer), is known to be pro-government. Its manager, László Baldauf, has expressed sympathy for ruling conservative party Fidesz several times in the store’s own magazine.
It caused a scandal in November 2013 when one of Baldauf’s letters was made public. He had written to CBA store managers countrywide to call on the workforce to join the Békemenet (Peace Walk), a large pro-government demonstration organised for the 23 October National Holiday.
Várgondnokság Nonprofit Kft., which is part of the Hungarian Asset Management Company, announced the search for Várbazár tenants on 23 May this year, with a 30-day deadline for tenders. A tenant was sought for a 235-square-metre store to sell at least 80% Hungarian products.
CBA Vár Gourmet Kft. (CBA Castle Gourmet Limited) subsequently signed a rent agreement for ten years with an option for a further five years. News website Napi.hu reported that the company had been registered at the Commercial Court only four days after the announcement of the tender.
The southern row of Várbazár is also waiting for tenants. Várgondnokság Nonprofit Kft. announced a tender on 30 June for a 489-square-metre room, possibly for a café or cake shop in the style of the classic coffeehouses.
The neo-renaissance Várkert Bazár, by architect Miklós Ybl, was built between 1875 and 1883. Originally it was a real bazaar full of stores plus a training workshop for women, a historical portrait gallery, a painting school and many workshops of Hungarian artists. There were also some private apartments.
It was badly damaged in the Second World War but struggled on until it was eventually left to rot for three decades until its still-ongoing HUF 10 billion reconstruction, assisted by European Union funding. A UNESCO world heritage building owned by the state, when it finally reopens for good, probably next month, apart from CBA and other traders, the plans include an escalator up to the Castle District, a multifunctional “event space” and a parking garage.