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High Society brings style and vibrancy back to the High Street

Date: 14 Mar 2024

Category: City centre, City regeneration and development

High Society Cut Club opens on Gresham Street thanks to Vacant to Vibrant grant

Independent barbers High Society Cut Club launched their business on the ground floor of 29 Gresham Street today, Thursday March 14, with the support of a Belfast City Council Vacant to Vibrant capital grant, bringing the property back into use after 20 years of vacancy.

Councillor ClĂ­odhna Nic Bhranair, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee said: “It’s fantastic to see our Vacant to Vibrant capital grant scheme supporting small businesses, independent retailers, social enterprises, and cultural and voluntary organisations to transform vacant spaces.

“It’s the creativity and unique style of independents like High Society who help to make Belfast a more attractive, diverse, and inclusive place to visit, socialise, study, work, live, and invest in. As well as restoring an old building which has lain vacant for 20 years, this Vacant to Vibrant grant is helping to sustain jobs, create new employment opportunities, and improve the quality of our streetscapes.

“The Smithfield area is going to be absolutely transformed in the lead up to our landmark visitor experience Belfast Stories opening just across the way in 2029. So I’m looking forward to seeing many more applications coming through so we can help people get established in the city centre. These local businesses and organisations are providing employment, helping to deliver an authentic Belfast experience, and fostering a greater sense of pride in the city.”

High Society Cut Club owner Hannah McShane said: ‘’We're thrilled to open our traditional barber shop in a part of the city that encapsulates Belfast's rich culture and artistic heritage. Building on this, we have created an authentic experience for our customers that will take them on a journey back in time. This move to the city centre wouldn’t have been possible for us without support from property owners, Bywater, and Belfast City Council – we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us as city-centre living continues to grow.”

Bywater have used the funding to complete external and internal works, including replacing the shopfront, front door, signage, and external rendering, as well as carrying out internal repairs and decoration. The opening of High Society Cut Club is part of their ongoing commitment to responsibly bring this historic part of the city back to life by supporting independent retail businesses across their portfolio of properties in the area.

Next year, High Society Cut Club plan to repurpose the first floor of the property to develop a training academy, offering a beginners’ training programme, creating additional employment opportunities and pathways to employment.

High Society Cut Club join Verona Bridal, Skull and Bones Tattoo Studio, Hench Gym and Flax Art Studios in the roster of 19 successful Vacant to Vibrant applicants to date who are breathing new life into Belfast city centre, with many more progressing – ranging from retail, beauty and food and beverage offerings.

Vacant to Vibrant is a key project in Belfast City Council’s Future City Centre Programme, which aims to create a vibrant, unique, and thriving place where people spend time, live, work, study, visit and invest. The £1 million pilot capital grant scheme opened in July 2022 in response to the high levels of city centre vacancy, aiming to incentivise both property owners and potential occupiers to bring vacant Belfast city centre spaces back into use, while supporting the city centre’s revitalisation and ensuring sustainable rates growth.

As part of the council’s wider programme to tackle vacancy, and to support the Vacant to Vibrant scheme, council also provides a matchmaking service through a partnership approach with commercial agent Frazer Kidd, linking businesses with potential units, with the opportunity to access capital funding through the scheme.

Applicants on the scheme also benefit from wrap around support from council’s Enterprise and Business Growth team, providing resources to support the start-up or expansion of the business or organisation, including access to one-to-one mentoring and workshops to help with growth and long-term sustainability.

Grants of up to £2.5k are available for pop-up ground floor use (minimum four months), up to £15k for active floor usage up to 150m², and up to £25k for active floor usage over 151m².

For more information, and to watch a video featuring Skull and Bones on North Street, Verona Bridal on Bruce Street and Flax Art Studios on Bedford Street, go to

Individuals and organisations wishing to find out more about the Vacant to Vibrant scheme can email the team at


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