‘Edinburgh’s worst pub’ Meridian Bar told to close

Councillor Chas Booth has criticised bar management. Picture: Toby Williams
Councillor Chas Booth has criticised bar management. Picture: Toby Williams
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A TOUGH city pub dogged by violent clashes that left one beaten drinker with a blood clot on his brain has been ordered to close.

The troubled Meridian Bar on Leith Walk barred more than 80 patrons in a frantic bid to reverse its reputation as a crime-blighted boozer.

Police have branded it one of the worst pubs in Edinburgh with officers visiting the premises up to three times a day to maintain order and enforce the rule of law.

A roll call of wrong-doing includes drug-taking football hooligans, heavily intoxicated patrons and drunken brawls inside and outside the premises.

Around 35 police incidents were recorded at the venue since December last year and in one incident a man who had been drinking for 13 hours was described as “lucky to be alive” after being set upon outside, sustaining a fractured skull and blood clot to the brain.

Its licence has been revoked for a month – to give it time to get its performance turned around.

But pub chiefs insist they faced a “challenging clientele” and were committed to turning the ailing pub around. And they claimed several incidents listed by police had nothing to do with the premises, citing inclusion of a stolen dog from a lamppost outside the pub.

At a licensing hearing on Monday, Inspector Dianne Bruce said “overconsumption” of alcohol was a major issue and urged councillors to review its liquor licence.

She said: “I’m not aware of any premises that has had as many police interventions as the Meridian.”
Chas Booth, Green Councillor for Leith and a member of the licensing board, said the litany of lapses suggested “poor management going back many months”.

He said: “This is the longest list of police incidents I’ve seen in my time on the board.

“There was little sign the management were getting a grip of the situation so suspending the licence was the only realistic option.

“To blame ‘challenging patrons’, as the agent for this pub tried to do, is abdicating their responsibility and is an insult to the many well-run pubs across the city who are able to avoid trouble.”

The pub is part of the Punch Tavern chain and a spokesman said: “We do not consider an appeal will be in the best interest for the premises and going forward we shall continue to co-operate with the local authorities and work with our partner to ensure any issues are addressed and all conditions adhered to.”

A CATALOGUE OF CHAOS

The News has obtained papers detailing 35 police incidents relating to the Meridian in the last ten months. They include:

• December 24, 2012: Money stolen from behind the bar.

• January 1, 2013: Staff assaulted while trying to stop a dog that had been left outside the pub from being stolen.

• March 19, 2013: Male customer suffers from a medical episode. Officers comment that patrons appeared heavily intoxicated.

• April 22: Football risk supporters threatening to assault door stewards having been asked to leave the premises.

• April 30: Customers involved in disturbance, which spilled out onto the street where the assault thereafter occurred. Attending officers commented on heavily intoxicated patrons.

• May 12: Man refusing to quit the boozer.

• June 8: Door staff assaulted by intoxicated woman who had been refused entry.

• July 13: Man allegedly threatens to shoot one of the pub door stewards.

• July 13: Man is refused entry after a woman is assaulted outside the pub.

• July 18: Staff called to report male patrons taking drugs in toilets. Males identified as football-risk supporters, one of whom was found to be 16 years old.

• September 17: Patron called ambulance service to report a fellow patron having fallen over in a drunken state, injuring his nose. Injured male aggressive and abusive, causing paramedic to retreat from premises and contact police. Male arrested and conveyed to St Leonard’s Police Station.Too drunk to charge.

Hauled before the beaks

A ROSTER of problematic pubs have been hauled before licensing chiefs in recent years including the Murrayfield Sports Bar – the scene of violent clashes that saw drinkers brawl with pool cues.

In November 2012, the Artful Dodger in Calder Road was banned from selling alcohol for three weeks after the manager failed to report an assault that left a man permanently scarred in a glass attack.

And the Spey Lounge, on Leith Walk, was rapped for in March this year amid uncertainty surrounding a bottle attack on Christmas Eve 2012.