Edinburgh pub owner blasts council after being told to take down seating area within weeks

A dismayed pub owner has lashed out at the council, after they ordered him to remove extended outdoor seating – which he says has been a “lifeline” – by the end of September.

Saturday, 31st July 2021, 4:55 am
The council has told the Scotsman to dismantle the outdoor seating area by end of September

In a major blow to the The Scotsman Lounge, the council have confirmed the pub has to dismantle their temporary outdoor seating area within the next eight weeks.

Daniel McNally, who leases with his brother Finbarr, says the forced removal of their the raised wooden platform, which allows them to serve five times more customers, will mean their business could go to the wall.

He is demanding answers over the council decision, which comes despite updated Scottish Government guidance to extend the original September deadline for removal of temporary outdoor structures to the end of March 2022.

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Mr McNally who has previously clashed with the council over the platform said the move will leave them “high and dry”.

The wooden structure, which was put up in April to extend outdoor seating as easing measures came into force, allows the pub on Cockburn Street to serve an additional 60 customers outside.

But once it’s removed, the pub will only be able to serve 18 people indoors and another 12 outside with current distancing requirements.

Shona Robison Cabinet Secretary for Local Government, wrote to council chiefs on July 15, giving six months reprieve on temporary outdoor structures to allow the hospitality sector time to remove them or apply to councils for a formal warrant.

In the letter, Ms Robison encourages councils to work with businesses to “encourage the sector to take steps to provide a safe and pleasant environment for customers while supporting the economic recovery of the sector”.

She states: “I do not wish the limitation on the number of days to be enforced against reasonable temporary outdoor buildings should a longer period be appropriate and helpful to businesses.”

But a council official has told Mr McNally that the pub’s temporary structure with extended tables and chairs has to be removed by September 30, when his permit expires.

Now he is in talks with other local pub and restaurant owners to start a petition.

He said: “Having the extra outdoor seating has been a lifeline. We would have had to shut our doors without it.

"We have survived with that and the good weather. It's very disappointing that the council are saying it has to come down in September. “The Government has clearly told councils it can be extended to March. They need to be more forward-thinking here.”

"The virus has not gone and many people still feel safer being able to sit outside.

"I don’t see how the trade will make it through the winter. If I don't have that structure I could only sit 12 people outside.”

"We are not out of the woods yet. Things have picked up and we have taken on seven new staff since May. But we are still carrying massive debt after we were closed for a year and still paying full rent. We are just a small business trying to make a living.

"The Scottish Government has told councils to work with businesses on this but they haven’t. They just said no. No explanation. Answers are needed here. They are leaving us high and dry.”

Responding to Mr McNally’s pleas, the council stresses that, while licences for temporary additional structures will come to an end in September, many premises, including the Scotsman Lounge, still have a permanent licence for tables and chairs, which will continue.

Council Leader Adam McVey said: “A huge amount of support has been offered to the hospitality sector since last March which has included greater flexibility in allowing businesses to provide additional outdoor structures for their customers as well as a fee waiver for their table and chairs permit.

"This was always meant as a temporary measure and needs to be balanced with wider community needs and others also using the space, typically on a public walkway.

“The situation regarding the pandemic continues to be fluid and we’ll revise our approach in line with public health guidance as required.”

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