Illegal Jack’s miss Billy Connolly boom amid flood

Billy Connolly's shows have boosted trade for businesses in the area. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Billy Connolly's shows have boosted trade for businesses in the area. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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With Billy Connolly in town, it was always going to be one of the busiest times of the year for the bars and restaurants around Lothian Road.

Thousands of excited fans have been flocking to the Usher Hall to see the veteran comic perform a series of sell-out shows.

The gigs are so popular that they caused the venue’s website to crash in July as fans scrambled for tickets, prompting organisers to add a fifth date to the Capital run of his Scottish High Horse Tour.

Now as Connolly fever grips the city, fans have tweeted pictures of the 71-year-old from a visit to Edinburgh Castle and making the draw for the third round of the Scottish Cup.

A collection of his artwork has also gone on show at Castle Fine Art, while restaurants and bars have reported ringing cash tills as they profit from the comedy legend’s visit.

But hours before the Big Yin was due to bring the house down in the Usher Hall on opening night on Saturday, one business owner was left counting the cost when his ceiling caved in.

Jack Muir, who owns Illegal Jack’s in Lothian Road, is looking at losses “well into five figures” after he was forced to close his award-winning Tex-Mex eatery until further notice.

A leak sent plaster raining down on to the food counter and into a cupboard as startled diners looked on.

The High Horse is Connolly’s first Scottish tour in five years and comes after the comedian was given the all-clear from the prostate cancer he underwent surgery for in 2013.

Mr Muir said: “Billy Connolly is on in the Usher Hall. I don’t want to put in print what we would have made in sales, but it’s a lot.

“This is really desperate, and there is no sense of it getting resolved.”

Billy Connolly is performing tonight, next Wednesday and next Thursday following shows at the weekend and last night.

Fabio Martone, owner of Bar Italia, gave a flavour of how Illegal Jack’s might have benefited from the Connolly effect. “We have been doing exceptionally well, and every time he is in the Usher Hall we get really busy,” he said.

A clean-up operation is under way at Illegal Jack’s after Saturday’s ceiling collapse, with Mr Muir claiming he first reported water streaming into his packed restaurant 18 days ago, and warned letting agents for the flat above that the ceiling could collapse if the leak was not plugged.

The 41-year-old, who opened in Lothian Road six years ago, is still paying his 14 staff and trying to absorb the costs of bills at the same time.

Mr Muir, who does not know when he will able to open again, said he has been forced to throw out large quantities of stock bought in anticipation of a bumper week.

He is now seeking legal advice about how to reclaim lost earnings amid claims the damage to his restaurant was “preventable”.

A spokeswoman for letting agents Lets4U said they were aware of the leak and were working with the council and the restaurant to resolve the problem.

Meanwhile, Connolly was delighted to see his “doodles” go on show at Castle Fine Art on Multrees Walk. He said: “I am flattered that my pictures are being exhibited. My drawings bear no relation to comedy or music and are just big personal doodles, but I’m delighted to share them with the people of Edinburgh.”