Extortion target pub set to reopen

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A PUB which was forced to close after being targeted by a protection racket run by two gangsters is set to reopen in time for Christmas with a new landlord.

The Gardeners Arms in Gilmerton was shut down by owner Scottish & Newcastle last October after its staff refused to help police investigate the extortion bid.

The council’s licensing board said the decision to reopen the Drum Street bar was a matter for the brewery as it had closed it down “voluntarily”.

But with the reopening planned for the coming weeks, the board said it would monitor the situation in the wake of last year’s trouble.

Detectives quizzed its landlord, David Hay, and bar staff over the extortion campaign run by a member of a notorious local family, who has since been jailed for a violent assault, and his associate.

The pair made threats against employees and demanded cash at the pub, forcing it to close for three days in September last year while police investigated.

The pub employees had refused to assist officers amid fears for their personal safety.

A police spokesman today said the extortion bid was no longer the subject of an ongoing investigation.

Mr Hay, who runs a construction firm, today said he hoped the reopening would be a success, but added that he was pleased to be no longer involved in its operation.

He said: “When we took over the pub, it was a success very quickly. But we were the victims of our own success and these heavies came in to try to get their share.

“I’m sure the reopening will be welcomed by many people and I wish them every success.”

At the time of the extortion campaign, a staff member told the Evening News: “When this first started, we did not want to involve the police and we never notified them.

“We couldn’t give statements because of safety issues. We’re people from the local area.”

A Scottish & Newcastle spokeswoman said: “It is our intention to try to reopen the Gardeners Arms before Christmas and we are in discussions with the relevant authorities. Once we have final confirmation, we will be able to announce details of its reopening.”

A city licensing board spokesman said: “The decision to close the premises last year was voluntarily taken by Scottish & Newcastle. Their tenants applied for a transfer of licence which does not require to be heard by the licensing board but we will continue to monitor the current position.”

Sources said the two gangsters involved were behind attempts to extort cash from other pubs and shops in the Gilmerton area, as well as a bid to take over the drug trade in Gilmerton, Craigmillar and Niddrie.