Alfresco dining set to stay on George Street

New decking platforms in George Street will allow alfresco dining for the Festival season and beyond. Pic: Scott Louden
New decking platforms in George Street will allow alfresco dining for the Festival season and beyond. Pic: Scott Louden
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Continental al fresco dining seen in Florence or Rome is set to become a permanent fixture on George Street with the arrival of Italian-made street marquees next month.

Decking being installed along the street in the first phase of a year-long pilot to pedestrianise the city’s most exclusive shopping boulevard is expected to remain in place permanently, the Evening News understands.

Businesses have bet heavily on the scheme’s success, investing more than £200,000 in outdoor all-weather ­marquees and street furniture.

City chiefs say the initiative will be reviewed after a year, but a senior councillor said: “If successful, the council will look to make this change permanent.”

Special marquees paid for by George Street traders are being shipped in from Italy and will appear on alternating sides of the road from August.

City-centre business improvement district Essential Edinburgh has co-ordinated the plans between businesses and the council.

Chief executive Andy Neal said: “We’re very excited about it. We think it’s going to be a great success. By the end of next week, I’m hopeful that all the bars and restaurants will have decking out in front, and they can have their tables and chairs operating. We’re expecting to put in another order for marquees in September. That will provide the weather protection that any long-term outdoor seating project needs in a Northern European country, and Scotland is definitely one of those.”

George Street traders have also agreed a uniform look.

“One thing we were keen to do is make sure that it wasn’t a rag tag of different things along George Street,” said Mr Neal. It is the premier street in a world heritage site, so having everything looking different and of a different standard wasn’t a good idea.”

Top bars and restaurants have embraced the potential of the scheme. Victor and Carina Contini, who run an Italian restaurant bearing their name, said: “In general we are really supportive about anything that attracts people to George Street and improves the environment for our customers. When the sun shines, there is no nicer place in Edinburgh to eat and drink al fresco.

“We are doing our bit by investing in an attractive outdoor space and staffing to ensure great service and we hope the new look is positively promoted so people know about it and can support it.”

Council chiefs have ­commissioned a raft of studies to examine the pilot scheme over the next year but are backing the pedestrian areas to become permanent.

Deputy transport convener Councillor Adam McVey said: “Particularly with the summer weather, this pilot gives Edinburgh a taste of cafe culture which will hopefully benefit businesses, locals and tourists. If successful the council will look to make this permanent.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com