Notorious former Edinburgh city centre sauna set to be transformed into student accommodation

A former Edinburgh sauna that was once notorious for offering sex services is set to be transformed into student accommodation.

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 12:57 pm

A planning application has been lodged with Edinburgh Council that would see the former Ambassador Sauna atLothian Road converted for residential use.

If approved, the adult entertainment complex, which closed seven years ago, would be gutted out and the wooden partitions of its former treatment rooms and other walls removed and replaced to create three separate dwellings, each with three bedrooms.

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Intent on creating serviced student accommodation on the site, the applicants note that the Category C listed property is located close to universities and colleges on “highly accessibly public transport routes”.

The Ambassador Sauna was once among the Capital’s most notorious sex spots, and narrowly avoided being closed down permanently in 2013 amid a Police Scotland crackdown on brothels masquerading as massage parlours.

The then new national force took a noticeably stronger line than the former Lothian and Borders Police, which, along with Edinburgh councillors, had long been accused of turning a blind eye to prostitution in saunas, on account they were effectively safe havens for sex workers.

The former Ambassador Sauna and leisure complex could be transformed for student accommodation.

Police carried out a series of raids, which was viewed as signalling the end of the city’s “traditional pragmatic approach” to dealing with sex saunas in the past.

In one instance, police visiting an Edinburgh sauna said the premises were clearly equipped for the sex trade, stating that “massage rooms were equipped as bedrooms with mirrored ceilings and walls” and “pornographic magazines were on display in the reception area”.

A number of voices, including the late former MSP Margo MacDonald condemned the zero tolerance policy pursued by the police force at the time, stating that such establishments offered protection to sex workers.

In October 2013, councillors on the licensing sub-committee opted to renew the licenses of a string of city saunas, rejecting many of Police Scotland’s findings.

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