Alison Craig: Fizzing mad at fast buck move

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George Street is awash with outside seating, dramatically extending the number of covers for the businesses which are located there by a huge amount.

Yes, it looks lovely but it is another example of Edinburgh City Council going for the quick buck rather than considering an overall view for all the businesses in the Capital located in other parts of town.

All businesses in Edinburgh pay their very high business rates 12 months a year and in the past this eye-watering sum was made bearable to the small local operators because come August and the Fringe and Festival, the streets would be thronging with visitors and locals alike all looking for somewhere to eat, drink and shop.

This made the lean months of winter almost bearable as paying rates in those months hurts – not to put too fine a point on it.

So now the council has given the opportunity for George Street-based businesses to seat hundreds more diners and drinkers, and with that it is effectively corralling everyone into the same area. Instantly this dramatically diminishes the opportunity or desire for visitors to wander further afield either to shop, eat and 
drink.

The effect on smaller businesses in the periphery of the centre is huge. Should the council not be promoting and helping local business as opposed to giving large national chains such as All Bar One, Browns, Gusto and The Living Room hundreds more seats to swell their coffers? All other local businesses have to adhere to some ludicrously restrictive rules and regulations.

One example is businesses in the city are permitted to have one small blackboard outside on the pavement to advertise the fact they are there at all.

This in comparison to the Mardi Gras of publicity and focus being lavished on the centre makes me question whether joined-up thinking has been employed in this decision-making process at any stage, or whether the temptation of short-term cash gain for the council has yet again clouded its judgement as few thrive and the majority inevitably suffer.

Sing the blues as party starts

Oh yes, and as if Edinburgh isn’t buzzing enough, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival starts this week, too.

There is a huge array of artists heading our way so if you’re not a fashion or photography fan then there’s plenty of live music to choose from. With that and the big wheel in Princes Street, it seems there is something for everyone.

For those who are thinking it’s too busy and frantic in the city then get on a train and head to North Berwick.

Down in the harbour you can sit and have a lobster with a glug of cider at the seasonal Lobster Shack and then cover yourself in goose fat and go in for a swim – or just order another drink and watch the world go by.

Photo festival gets top Rankin

The fashion world arrives in the city this week in the shape of the International Fashion Festival, comprising fashion shows, exhibitions, workshops and lectures.

As if that wasn’t enough, alongside this is Retina, the inaugural Scottish International Photography Festival which has lots of award-winning images and photographers, again utilising some of the Capital’s most striking venues. With work by Rankin, above, and Helena Christensen amongst others, it’s well worth having a Google and heading off to admire or inspire your creative energy.

CORKING GOOD TIME

I am off on a BYOD trip! It’s not a misprint – it’s bring your own dog, not bring your own bottle. It’s very exciting. The problem is my two dogs are 14 and 15 respectively and being trapped in a car with them for any length of time means there is a chance we might asphyxiate as they are short of teeth and personal hygiene. So I am kidnapping my pal, Dynamite, and her miniature schnauzer, Doris, for the night – both fragrant travelling companions. I will report back for all you dog lovers!

Cookery contest shown red card

Up in Cromarty for the weekend with old pals. In fact, there were 17 of us so each couple was taking turns to cook the main meal. It inadvertently turned into Come Dine With me. Competitive canapés (we didn’t have any), a starter, main course and pud with drinks, too.

We lucked out as our designated night was Sunday night, the night of the World Cup final.

We could have served carpet tile with a fish finger broth as it was. With one eye on the clock, everyone sat down and inhaled their dinner.

The men especially could have won the world speed eating championship but, judging by the noises that were emanating from them during the match, next time we should get it sponsored by Rennies. We were all on the couch within 20 minutes watching the frankly dull final.

Ah well, only another four years to wait for the next one – hallelujah.