An UPMARKET craft beer bar is to open in a former striptease club in a move which has been hailed as evidence of the changing face of Lothian Road.
Directors at brewer Innis and Gunn say they want their new venue to mark a new chapter in the street’s emergence as a more prestigious drinking and dining destination.
Their plans were announced as the management of Club Rouge – which previously ran the premises – claimed that police were targeting the city’s lap dancing bars in a bid to put them out of business.
Long known as a trouble hotspot and branded a no-go area by many on Friday and Saturday nights, Lothian Road is fast becoming a major attraction for more discerning diners and drinkers, with higher end venues such as The Hanging Bat and Red Squirrel adding to its growing appeal.
Dougal Sharp, founder of Innis and Gunn, said the bar – called The Beer Kitchen, which is due to open in July – would mark a “fresh start” for the venue and the street.
He said: “It’s a complete change from what’s there currently – we want this to be a real destination on the bar and restaurant circuit.
“Lothian Road is up and coming, big time. If you look at the quality of the dining and drinking operators on the street there are some great operators.
“The image of Lothian Road [as unsafe] is gone. We’re opening there because there are many businesses located in the area and there’s a good amount of residential as well. It seemed like a really strong location for us.”
Mr Sharp said The Beer Kitchen would be the first of a new range of bars and restaurants after plans were unveiled to raise £3 million needed for a state-of-the-art brewery, bottling line and barrel store.
The Beer Kitchen concept is being spearheaded by Mr Sharp and David Hall, previously of Edinburgh’s Tigerlily, Opal Lounge and Rick’s bars.
“At The Beer Kitchen, we’re putting in craft beer tanks so we’re delivering fresh, unpasteurised beer from the brewery every day,” said Mr Sharp.
“And we’re putting a glass-walled cellar in the middle of the bar so you can actually see our oak barrels maturing and go in and try the beer in the barrel. As far as I’m aware, that’s unique in Edinburgh.”
He added: “People are coming to craft beer in their droves and we feel we’ve only just taken our first step over the start line in terms of creating a market in Scotland.”
Staff at neighbouring businesses have welcomed news of The Beer Kitchen’s arrival and said the opening would further enhance Lothian Road’s improving reputation. Chris Mair, co-owner of The Hanging Bat, said: “I’m thrilled to bits that a bar like that is opening on the street.
“I think Innis and Gunn will attract a higher end, mainstream clientele. They’re not mainstream in their sales volume but they bring in people who would not have an idea about, for example, the Kernel Brewery in London but are interested in beer because they’re interested in Innis and Gunn.
“Lothian Road has changed beyond recognition over the last three years. Innis and Gunn opening a bar here is another step along the way.”
Councillor Alasdair Rankin, finance leader and SNP member for the city centre, has also hailed the prospect of a new craft beer bar for Lothian Road, describing it as a sign of the area’s growing “diversity”.
“I think the street may be [improving], with places such as The Hanging Bat opening up,” he added.
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