Do people want shops, or one big food court? - Kevin Buckle

Interesting news this week that plans had been submitted for a £3 million “gastro gaming” venue in Edinburgh city centre.

Darts-themed restaurant and pub chain Oche is eyeing a site in George Street
Darts-themed restaurant and pub chain Oche is eyeing a site in George Street

I immediately wondered which of the big empty units they were looking at only to read they had plans for the shop currently occupied by Hollister on George Street.

This follows on the recent news that Mojo the restaurant, cafe and cocktail bar had made a change of use application for FOPP on Rose Street.

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Princes Street is running on empty, and it's not sustainable - Kevin Buckle

It isn’t clear why shops that are still occupied have been targeted but it does highlight that there are far more shops available in the city centre than just those visibly empty.

While it is no surprise both of the potential new businesses are offering food and drink it should also be a worry as there seems to be a resignation among Edinburgh councillors that the only way forward to filling all the empty city centre units is to turn the centre into one big food court.

Also yet again both these new businesses are not really family friendly. Oche, a darts-themed restaurant, are pitching their business as a new dining and entertainment establishment where revellers can eat, enjoy craft cocktails and try their luck at digitised darts.

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When I was first asked to write a column it was on the basis that I had been right about issues in the Grassmarket and I explained it wasn’t difficult as all I had to do was look out of the window.

It is starting to feel like that again as the feedback I get from all the families that visit Avalanche is that they are enjoying their visit to Edinburgh but there is little on offer when it comes to eating beyond the chains.

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Don’t get me wrong, youngsters do seem very happy to see a McDonald’s, KFC and Starbucks especially at Waverley Market where they are all in one place. However parents in particular would like somewhere maybe a little more individual while understanding their children would treat a visit to a nice restaurant as a punishment rather than a treat.

I can assure you I have no influence with the owners of Waverley Market but given they have permission to build a U-shaped building on the roof it would certainly be worth revisiting their plans to consider businesses that are family-friendly during the day but could stil cater for a more late night clientele in the evening.

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While it is some time since I have been based in the Grassmarket I had noticed over the years when passing through early afternoon far more families sitting out eating than was the case in my time there.

While the council’s influence over the type of retail in the city centre is limited to the properties they own they are of course able to control the mix between retail and hospitality far more closely when it comes to a change of use or planning being needed.

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At the rate things are going the city centre will soon be nothing but eating places interspersed with tartan tat, discount stores and American candy shops.

If all goes well with the plans for Waverley Market I’m hoping for a safe haven.

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