Alcohol licensing chief Eric Milligan has slammed police for failing to criticise controversial plans to turn the Picture House into a super-pub.
The outspoken veteran councillor said he was “astonished” officers didn’t object to the proposal, which would see the 1500-capacity building in Lothian Road transformed into a huge new branch of the Wetherspoon’s chain.
If plans are approved, the historic live music venue will become one of the Capital’s largest bars, serving hundreds of customers from 7am every day and operating until 1.30am at the weekend.
Police were asked for their views and said the venue’s existing use created a higher antisocial behaviour risk than would be the case if it became a pub. Councillors agreed on Wednesday to postpone a decision on whether to give Wetherspoon’s plans the green light so police and environmental health officers can provide further evidence.
They will also visit the venue, which hosted acts including David Bowie, Queen and Status Quo when it was known as the Caley Palais in the 1970s and 1980s. Cllr Milligan said he was “more than a little surprised” at the police response after officers complained publicly about the council’s approach to licensing new premises.
He said: “I was astonished that police were consulted and raised no objection – that’s astonishing. We should try as far as possible to pin this down and get some consistency in what we are doing.”
Last year, Superintendent Matt Richards accused Cllr Milligan of failing in his responsibility by denying the link between crime and the number of pubs, clubs and off-licences across Edinburgh.
Officers were being “dragged into the city centre” every weekend to protect revellers and keep streets safe, he said.
But Cllr Milligan has bitten back, warning some of the Capital’s flagship venues were being left to lie empty and neglected for no good reason.
“We have got ourselves tied into knots on a few occasions [over this issue],” he said. “It’s not good for Edinburgh that the Odeon cinema [on Clerk Street] is lying there derelict when it should be put to some good use.”
Senior officers at Police Scotland said the Picture House already had an alcohol licence and that “grounds for comment” on the super-pub plan were restricted.
A spokeswoman said: “We will continue to monitor developments in this case closely to mitigate any negative impact on public safety and crime levels.”
The row comes after more than 13,000 people signed a petition against plans to turn the Picture House into a Wetherspoon’s, while a parliamentary motion opposing the change won cross-party support.
Planning chiefs also said more than 140 objections had been lodged with the council.