Elephant House: Edinburgh's Harry Potter cafe in 'nightmare' situation after fire damage from George IV Bridge blaze

A year on from the George IV Bridge fire, the Elephant House is still unable to re-open, as the building’s owner has gone into liquidation.

The cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote much of her bestselling Harry Potter books was seriously damaged in a fire on George IV Bridge last August.

Nearly a year has passed, however, cafe owner David Taylor claims that no repairs have been made to the building since.

Hide Ad

Family-run Tonstate Group, who previously owned a section of the building which contained the Elephant House cafe, went into liquidation shortly after the blaze in 2021.

Mr Taylor has 12 more years left on his lease of the property. While he has received £350,000 from his insurance company to renovate the cafe, he cannot start work until the building has been made safe.

Read More
Ferry Road Drive hit-and-run: Armed police called to scene of crash after motorc...
Hide Ad

He told BBC Scotland that the situation had "become a nightmare".

Mr Taylor said: "I've been inundated with emails and letters from Harry Potter fans asking when the cafe will be reopening and I don't know what to tell them as the liquidator hasn't returned my calls.

Hide Ad
The Elephant House was seriously damaged by the fire, which blazed through several local businesses on the George IV Bridge.

"I've also sent a lawyer's letter to them but I've still had nothing back from them.

Hide Ad

"Nobody in the building can start refurbishing until structural engineers are appointed by the building owner. The building owner has done nothing for almost a year now."

Liquidator Mike Solomons told BBC Scotland that the company was "addressing issues", and that it would try to assist the building owners and tenants "as soon as possible".

Hide Ad

It is believed that the blaze started in the Patisserie Valerie cafe next door to the Elephant Cafe.

One firefighter was taken to hospital after the level-four inferno. Fire crews have been tackling a large blaze which broke out at Edinburgh's George IV Bridge. Police Scotland closed several roads in the city's old town on Tuesday morning and said officers were assisting the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service . The alarm was raised shortly after 6am by a cleaner at Edinburgh's Elephant House cafe - where JK Rowling penned her first Harry Potter book. It is believed the fire started in the Patisserie Valerie cafe next door. Elephant House owner David Taylor, said the fire had not spread to the building, but it had suffered smoke and water damage.
Hide Ad

A cleaner raised the alarm at around 6am on August 24 last year, after she noticed smoke coming up through the floor.

The level four fire spread across the five-storey building, affecting rental flats, as well as the Oz Bar and Merchants restaurant.

Hide Ad

One firefighter was taken to hospital after battling the inferno.

Speaking to the Evening News shortly after the fire, Mr Taylor said: “It’s looking like a bomb has gone off in there, to be honest. From what I can see there are ceilings that have come down and floors on our level caved in.

Hide Ad

At the time, he estimated that it would take a few months to return the cafe to its former glory, which he said was “devastating”.

The Tonstate Group, which owned the building before the fire, went into liquidation after a serious dispute between the owners.

Hide Ad

Property executive Edward Wojakovski, who owned the company with his former father-in-law, Arthur Matyas, was accused of taking funds from the group.

Mr Taylor said: "I feel really angry and upset that we can't start refurbishing works because we've been caught up in a wealthy family dispute."

Hide Ad

A spokeswoman for Mike Solomons told the BBC: "The liquidators understand that the fire at George IV Bridge has left the property owners and tenants in an extremely distressing and frustrating situation.

"Unfortunately, the fire occurred prior to the liquidators' appointment, however the liquidators have and are continuing to seek to address the issues surrounding the fire to try and assist the property owners and tenants as soon as possible."