Revamped Harry’s Bar becomes ‘social enterprise’ pub with charity focus

Chris Thewlis in Harry's Bar. Picture: Scott Taylor
Chris Thewlis in Harry's Bar. Picture: Scott Taylor
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IT was once renowned for its crowded dance floor and vibrant, party atmosphere.

But in recent years Harry’s Bar in the West End – a staple of the Capital’s night-time economy since the 1980s – has ditched the dancing shoes in favour of a focus on food.

Now, the old-style bar is back and better than ever – as part of Edinburgh’s first ever “social enterprise” pub chain, alongside Southside Social on Buccleuch Street.

The unique set-up allows the business to plough its profits back into good causes and employ and train young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Chris Thewlis, “director of beer” for new operator Good CIC, said a six-figure investment would see the bar “return to its glory days” – with its much-loved dance floor reinstated in pride of place.

He said: “I’m certain that Harry’s will prosper, as it once did, and that it’ll again be a popular and much-loved meeting place – a place where people can enjoy themselves [and] where they can have a great time in a fantastic atmosphere.

“And we aim to make it profitable. The more money it makes, the more people it can help and the better it will be.”

Mr Thewlis said the newly relaunched Harry’s would follow the same model as Southside Social, training young staff for a career in the hospitality industry and sourcing much of its products from other social enterprises.

And he promised live music at the weekends, as well as “meet the maker” nights for brewers and distillers to introduce their beers and spirits to customers.

“When you talk about Harry’s most people will mention the dance floor,” he said. “It’s something that’s really chimed with people over the years. When we bought it over we were very keen to bring it back and turn Harry’s back into a place where people can enjoy themselves and have a fun night out.

“But we also want to move things forward, and there’s a big focus on craft beer and spirits.”

Among the drinks on offer will be an exclusive whisky from premium bottler and distillery Adelphi – with hopes for a further exclusive deal with Chinese craft brewery Panda Brew. The Randolph Place bar, which reopened at the end of last week, will employ six full-time staff and open from 12pm to 1am.