Wetherspoon Picture House plan moves step forward

The Picture House on Lothian Road. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The Picture House on Lothian Road. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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PLANS to convert one of the Capital’s premier music venues into a superpub have moved a step closer.

City officials have granted JD Wetherspoon listed building consent for the Picture House on Lothian Road despite strong opposition.

The venue, which played host to the likes of Pink Floyd and Queen, looks set to become part of the pub chain famous for its lack of music.

It means the venue has taken a significant step towards reopening as a Wetherspoon but still faces a battle to secure a change of use with planners after 19,000 signatures were added to a petition aiming to save the Picture House as a live music hub.

Callum Mouat, who worked as a bar supervisor at the Picture House, set up an online petition when it closed in December.

The 23-year-old drummer from Baberton described the development as a blow to the live music scene.

It comes in the week that an open debate – dubbed Live Music Matters – in the Usher Hall saw city officials and around 100 music industry big-hitters thrash out a blueprint to improve the Capital’s flagging gig scene.

“I was very hopeful but this goes to show that the city council is concentrating more on pubs than on keeping music venues alive,” said Mr Mouat.

“This is absolutely gutting. Basically, it’s like taking someone’s dream and shattering it.”

Nicholas Munro, community councillor for Tollcross, predicted another Wetherspoon would lead to “swathes of drunk people” on Lothian Road.

He said: “I think this would be detrimental to the area and to all the good work done by the council and the police to clean the area up.”

Eddie Gershon, of Wetherspoon, said he understood that people who remembered the Picture House as a live music venue would not be happy.

He said: “We are not the grim reaper. The bottom line is that the Picture House had closed as a live music venue.

“Had it been successful, it wouldn’t have been for sale. Wetherspoon doesn’t have music in its pubs and that is one of our selling points.

“We can see the irony, but we have an excellent reputation for the way we run our pubs, and to say there would be an increase in antisocial behaviour is ridiculous.”

Former Simple Minds manager Bruce Findlay stressed that there were still plenty of live music venues in town.

He said: “For the live music scene to work it has to be 
supported and an awful lot of artists don’t support one another.”

The next step for the pub chain will be to seek permission for change of use.

Mr Gershon was unable to confirm whether permission had been sought but stressed that planning issues would have to be resolved before licensing.

Councillors are likely to discuss the plans on December 3 at a development management sub-committee meeting though the agenda is still to be confirmed.