Owner of Leith cafe fears his business could be forced to close over tram disruption

Aubrey Dickson has noticed a drop in earnings since the tram works began.

Saturday, 30th November 2019, 4:00 pm
Updated Saturday, 30th November 2019, 4:38 pm

The owner of a cafe in Leith fears his business may fold as tramworks have severely reduced footfall in the first two weeks of a three-year project.

Aubrey Dickson, who owns the Marmalade cafe on Bernard Street, says he is losing almost a quarter of his usual profit due to the roadworks, and has not been offered compensation like businesses close by on Constitution Street.

“The works were not supposed to affect Bernard Street, but they’ve closed it,” he said.

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Aubrey Dickson outside his cafe.

“In the last two weeks we have been losing around £100 a day because of this.”

Mr Dickson, whose cafe would ordinarily make around £400 a day, has noticed that he has taken in only around £300 a day in the past two weeks since the roadworks began.

“They have suspended all parking within half a mile and about 70% of the road is closed,” said Mr Dickson.

“We’re not getting the same bus footfall as the number 16 bus has been diverted, and we’ve lost at least two regular customers who have mobility issues.”

Aubrey Dickson with a customer in Marmalade Cafe.

“This is only two weeks in and I’m worried that the cafe won’t survive,” he said.

Mr Dickson said the cafe suffers most at the weekend.

Ranked in the top five cafes for breakfast in Edinburgh according to Tripadvisor, Marmalade cafe serves weekend breakfasts to people coming from all over the city.

But Mr Dickson thinks those customers now prefer to avoid the area because of all the traffic problems.

The cafe has retained its custom from nearby office workers during the week, but has lost that of people coming off buses, and taxi and HGV drivers stopping their vehicles on the wide road.

Adrian Crolla, owner of Pierinos, an Italian pizza and fish and chip shop also on Bernard Street, said his business is also losing money.

“No one can pull over any more, people just avoid the area,” he said.

“If it gets any worse we might have to cut staff hours.”

Mr Crolla also thinks his business should be given compensation for the disruption caused by the tramworks.

“A reduction in the rates we pay would help, it’s the least they can do,” he said.

“We pay a lot, they should be cut at least by half.”

Mr Crolla said the business was offered compensation in 2009 when the tram extension was first due to be completed, but was scrapped.

The roadworks are part of the £207m project to extend Edinburgh’s tram network from York Place, where it currently terminates, to Newhaven.

Eight new stops will be put in place on the 4.69km extension.

Work began in two sections on Constitution Street on November 18, between Foot of the Walk and Coatfield land and between the north junction of Queen Charlotte Street and Constitution Place.

So-called ‘enabling work’ is also taking place on Leith Walk between Manderston Street and London Road.

Lothian bus routes 16 and N16 have been diverted via Great Junction Street, Henderson Street and The Shore in both directions.

The extension to Newhaven, due to be completed in 2023, was initially planned to take place in the first round of tram construction but was abandoned in April 2009 due to a funding shortfall.