Mixed emotions as plans unveiled for Port O' Leith revamp

IT played a starring role in the hit film Sunshine on Leith and was a quiet spot where Irvine Welsh drafted Trainspotting.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 13th April 2017, 6:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:39 pm
Andrew and Gillian are stepping our from behind the Port OLeith bar. Picture: Toby Williams
Andrew and Gillian are stepping our from behind the Port OLeith bar. Picture: Toby Williams

But now the Port O’ Leith Bar will be closed for several weeks while it undergoes a major refurbishment and welcomes new faces behind the bar.

The popular pub, owned by Punch Taverns, started life as a place for sailors to drink when they docked in Leith.

It built up a reputation thanks to its legendary former landlady Mary Moriarty, who ran the pub for 25 years.

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Andrew Muir, lease holder and manager of the pub for the past eight years, said he will be saying goodbye with “mixed emotions” after experiencing financial problems in 2015.

The pub, which has been famously known for revellers dancing on the bar and its colourful selection of flags, fell into turmoil when bosses discovered problems with its roof.

After a tile fell from above, staff at the pub removed the flags to clean them and discovered more severe problems lurking.

Owners were forced to use all of their money on urgent repairs, rather than spending on decorative features as they’d hoped.

Andrew, 42, said: “Both [co-owner] Gillian and myself have had the pleasure of running the Port for eight of the 10 years of our lease, but as many will recall in October 2015, we had a bit of financial trouble, and a very big repair bill to pay.

“Our options were limited, so we allowed Punch to advertise the lease as being available in order to come to an agreement to clear our debt.”

He added: “We’ve seen a couple of plans of what’s going to happen, and it looks good.

“More importantly the new owners are spending some money fixing the place up, which we can all agree it needs.

“The Port has survived the past 30 years, this will make sure she survives the next 30.”

Two years ago, when fears were on the horizon that the pub may close due to its huge repair bill, Ms Moriarty, who is still a regular in the pub, said the Port O’Leith had a place in locals’ hearts and she would be sad to see any drastic changes.

She said at the time: “The customers make it a brilliant pub, as well as the ambience.

“But Leith is a different place now and if they’re not making money, what can you do?

“I expect Punch will keep it open until they acquire someone else to take it over.

“It would be a shame if it closed.”

At the weekend, Andrew announced on the pub’s Facebook page details of its final party as customers know it.

He said: “At this moment in time we’re going to have a last stand on April 22 – not long I know.

“We’re not sure what we plan to do just yet, but it will be our ‘official’ end-of-term party. If there is beer left the pub may open for the next couple of days after that, but will be closed from Wednesday 26th onwards.”