Outdoor dining till midnight near Festival venues

IT is a way of life more commonly associated with European cities like Barcelona and Rome, but could soon be the norm for summers in the Capital.
Outdoor dining has proven popular in many city centre locations, including George Street. Picture: Ian GeorgesonOutdoor dining has proven popular in many city centre locations, including George Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Outdoor dining has proven popular in many city centre locations, including George Street. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Al fresco dining is set to become a fixture of the festival season, with plans to roll out late-night seating spots near to popular Fringe venues.

The move will see bars and restaurants based within 150 metres of official Festival sites able to serve food and drinks outdoors until midnight.

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Following a successful trial on George Street last year, businesses in Bristo Square, George Square and the Pleasance should soon be able to apply for a permit.

Malcolm Duck, chairman of the Edinburgh Restaurateurs Association, welcomed the idea, saying it would redirect visitors to local traders.

He said: “I think it’s a brilliant idea. One of the problems with the Fringe is that it brings a lot of business to the city, which is fantastic, but they allow all these other tents and operators to set up and take half the business.

“If we are going to have a European-type friendly place, then these things need to be looked at. Extending outside hours makes a lot of sense. I can understand residents objecting but the other argument is that if you want to live in a quiet environment, there is a lot of countryside out there.”

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There had been concerns extended street opening would lead to drunken rowdiness on the George Street, but Police Scotland confirmed no arrests or complaints were made.

By July, 1200 on-street interviews will have been carried out with residents, visitors, shoppers and commuters on what they would like to see happen next on the thoroughfare.

City council bosses are now looking to extend the trial – hailed for its lively atmosphere and increased business for traders – to other central sites in summer before wider parts of the city, such as Stockbridge and Morningside, get involved by 2016.

Andy Neal, chief executive of city centre marketing agency Essential Edinburgh, said there was a definite need for the Capital to be brought more in line with other big cities.

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He said: “I’ve heard of several occasions where people have had to be rushed at the end of a meal because things close down at 10pm. If you come from southern Europe, you can’t book a table at a restaurant until 10pm in places like Barcelona so just when they’re about to start sitting down, we’re moving people on.

“I think it’s a positive step, the George Street test was successful and we should consider rolling it out quite broadly rather than on a limited basis.”

Consultation is ongoing, with a decision expected to be reached in March.

City environment leader Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “As last year’s trial on George Street demonstrated, extending operating hours for outdoor seating areas proved popular, creating a café culture on the street and improving the atmosphere for customers.

“We now want to explore the potential for bringing these benefits to businesses and festival-goers elsewhere in the city during the summer.”