Belle Angele nightclub reopens after Cowgate fire

Belle Angele pictured six weeks after the fire. Picture: Cate Gillon
Belle Angele pictured six weeks after the fire. Picture: Cate Gillon
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A NIGHTCLUB which once played host to legendary performers Oasis, Radiohead and The Libertines is to reopen tonight after being destroyed in the devastating Cowgate fire 12 years ago.

La Belle Angele, in Hastie’s Close, has lain empty since 2002 when the popular music venue was razed to the ground during the blaze which swept through Cowgate.

A faulty fuse box started the fire which raged through the historic Old Town block for 52 hours, forcing more than 100 people to flee their homes and scorching 11 buildings including the popular Fringe venue Gilded Balloon and Edinburgh University’s School of Infomatics.

Nestled under the Ibis hotel – which opened in January – the expanded nightclub will accommodate around 550 people and the new stage will be able to house a ten-piece band, as part of its future as a serious live music venue.

Although the building was mostly damaged by fire, some original features have been retained, such as the nightclub’s distinctive red walls.

The efforts of owner Hafid Mahboub, 61, and his business partner Myriam Marescq have struck a chord with former regular Gary Flockhart, who frequented the venue in its Nineties heyday.

The Evening News music columnist said: “La Belle Angele was much missed after its unexpected departure from the Capital’s music scene in 2002 – and it’s great news that it’s re-opening all these years later.

“Many people lost their businesses in the Cowgate fire, but for music fans in the city, the loss of a favourite venue – and not just for gigs but for clubs too – was a very sore one to take.”

As an aspiring music writer, Gary witnessed some “truly iconic acts” such as Brit Pop legends Oasis in 1994 and indie favourites The Libertines in 2002.

“It’s a cliche these days to call a venue ‘legendary’, but this divey joint, tucked away down the dark, seedy-looking Hastie’s Close, was worthy of being called that,” he said.

“I hear the re-opened La Belle Angele will have something like a 600 capacity, which means music fans can get up close and personal with their favourite bands, just like they could in its heyday.

“In short, it’s really great news for Edinburgh’s live music scene, because the city is really crying out for more venues of its kind right now.”

In a post on its Facebook page, La Belle Angele said: “We’re getting very excited for our Official Launch with Nightvision over the weekend of Friday 24 and Saturday 25.

“It’s been a long time coming so we anticipate this weekend to be very busy indeed.”

The opening will be celebrated over Friday and Saturday with a performance from drum and bass pioneer Andy C.

The new nightclub is part of the £35 million SoCo 
development for the Cowgate area, which is bounded by the 4708 sq ft Sainsbury’s, in South Bridge, and the 279-bed Ibis Hotel which adjoins the newly refurbished La Belle Angele.

The nightclub, which first opened in 1992, was granted its new alcohol licence in March last year by the city council.