Half-a-million revamp for two “old men’s pubs”

Gordon Gilhooley and Iain Pert are investing ''�550,000 in two Edinburgh pub refurbishments.
Gordon Gilhooley and Iain Pert are investing ''�550,000 in two Edinburgh pub refurbishments.
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BREWERY bosses are pumping half-a-million pounds into two “old men’s pubs” – creating 32 new jobs as part of their makeover plans.

The William McEwans Alehouse, also previously know as The Alehouse, unveiled its £155,000 new look last night on its first evening as a McSorleys venue, while The Spiders Web in Haymarket is due for a major refurbishment next year.

Described as having been “previously a traditional male-dominated drinking pub”, the new McSorleys, in Clerk Street, will offer “live music seven nights a week, including singer/songwriter sessions, and quality ale and food”.

Both refurbishments are the result of a joint investment between Star Pubs & Bars, part of Heineken, and I&G Events, run by Iain Pert, the former director of Festival Inns and Gordon Gilhooley, who used to own the Castle Night Club.

They come against a backdrop of pub closures across Scotland and against concerns remaining pubs are becoming too corporate and unified in their image.

Mr Pert said: “The Alehouse was in real need of an upgrade, and I’m sure former punters coming to the new McSorleys won’t be disappointed. As well as live music we’ll also be doing band-aoke nights, which is like karaoke but with a live band. Plus from January we’ll be doing live comedy once a month.”

This is the first of two major refurbishments being carried out by the pair, who also own No1 Grange Road, Scotts Bar in Rose Street and the Standard in Howe Street. Though planning is still under way for the £400,000 new-look Spiders Web in Morrison Street, it is understood that the bar is likely to close in the spring in the hope it can be reopened in time for the Festival.

Manager Gordon Russell said the establishment was set to be “completely gutted”. He said: “I think the last refurb was about 15-20 years ago so it could do with some sprucing. The name of the pub will also be changed but I couldn’t say what the new name will be right now.

“We will also be serving food, which is something there’s been a noticeable increase in demand for since more tourists began staying in hotels in the Haymarket area.”

Jim Darroch, from the Edinburgh branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, advised caution when modernising established pubs.

He said: “These are two bars which I wouldn’t say were particularly essential from a heritage standpoint and I’m sure no-one would argue with the fact that they needed a bit of a spruce up.

“However, the worrying side to this is that some places best left alone are also feeling the pressure to upgrade and we’re seeing a lot of pubs up and down the country being converted in a very generic manner. Edinburgh has remained more immune than most cities so far, but if this is allowed to continue unchecked we could see many beloved boozers changed into identical, cookie-cutter venues.”