J.D Wetherspoons to take over the Picture House

Edinburgh singer Nina Nesbitt. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh singer Nina Nesbitt. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Pub chain J.D. Wetherspoons will be taking over the Picture House in the New Year, it has been confirmed.

Staff and management at live music venue on Lothian Road were said to have been shocked to discover that the 3000 capacity venue would be closing at the end of the month.

The Picture House on Lothian Road is to be sold to new owners.

The Picture House on Lothian Road is to be sold to new owners.

Many across the Capital have also reacted with sadness to the news of the venues closure, with a petition calling for new owners Wetherspoons to keep the popular city centre establishment as a live music venue reaching over 1000 signatures in less than two hours, gaining support from DJ Vic Galloway and rising Edinburgh pop star Nina Nesbitt.

A spokeswoman for current owners MAMA and Company confirmed that Wetherspoons, who already own several bars around Edinburgh and the Lothians, would be taking over the venue.

She added: “We understand that the new owners will close for refurbishment on December 31 and are not expected to re-open as a music venue. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the public, the venue staff, and all the great artists and promoters who have graced the stage over the last five years for their support.”

A Wetherspoon spokesman said: “We can confirm that the company has exchanged on the purchase of The Picture House.

“Our aim is to develop it into a Wetherspoon pub, though at present, there are no on site or opening dates. We are fully aware that The Picture House is well known as a music venue and also aware of the current petition.

“Wetherspoon does not have live music in any of its pubs, so it is extremely unlikely that live music will continue once it reopens.

“However, we are always prepared to listen to the arguments and to discuss it further.”

Local singer Nesbitt had joined a chorus of disapproval on learning of the news, saying she was “gutted” that the Picture House was to close.

The Edinburgh singer was among performers who have had planned gigs in 2014 cancelled as a result of the news that the Lothian Road venue is being sold off.

The former art deco cinema once played host to the likes of The Smiths and New Order at the height of its acclaim.

But a packed Hogmanay party will witness the venue’s farewell concert – a “Mardis Gras” featuring a soul and funk band – before it is closed for refurbishment.

News that it will not be relaunched as a concert theatre will further cut Edinburgh’s offering of mid-scale venues and threatening its credibility as a touring hotspot.

Acts for 2014 who have had dates cancelled include Adam Ant, Rizzle Kicks and Nesbitt, who took to Facebook to express her sadness at the venue’s closure last night.

The 19-year-old Stay Out singer said: “Absolutely gutted to find out that Edinburgh Picture House is closing.

“It’s the one venue my friends and I went to for club nights and to see artists play and it really inspired me to start gigging. Waiting to hear about what is happening with my Edinburgh March gig. Will let you all know ASAP.”

The Edinburgh Picture House began life as the Caley Cinema before its first incarnation as a music venue under the banner Caley Palais.

It was converted to The Ampitheatre and Century 2000 before being restored to its art deco beginnings in 2008 as the Edinburgh Picture House under the stewardship of new owners MAMA and Company.

Boasting high ceilings, the venue was split over two levels with a top end capacity of 1500 people.

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture and sport convener, spoke of his disappointment at the closure.

He said: “I’m obviously saddened to hear that the Picture House is to close. A loss of a music venue in the city is always a concern, and especially such a popular one.”

News of the closure comes as Creative Scotland are set to conduct a review into the “lack of a suitable mid-scale venue” in Edinburgh.

A feasibility study will investigate new sites that could house a new-build venue or the possible conversion of an existing building to satisfy the need.