The Scotsman's Lounge: outdoor seating to be rebuilt in last-minute compromise with city council

Frantic last-minute building works are being carried out at a pub in Edinburgh’s historical Old Town after landlords were ordered to tear down a £4,500 outdoor seating platform that had been specially built to allow customers to return safely when lockdown restrictions ease on Monday.

Daniel McNally – who with his brother Finbarr leases The Scotsman’s Lounge on Cockburn Street – was instructed by council officials to dismantle a decking area he believed had been given the go-ahead.

The order came late on Friday, following a single complaint about the height of the new structure, which was 1m off the ground at its highest point to account for the slope of the street.

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Now the publicans and their team of joiners are pulling apart the 15m by 2.5m platform and replacing it with five separate booths, shorter in height but covering the same footprint.

It’s a race against time, with doors at the 110-year-old pub due to open at 9am on April 26.

“We’ve managed to come to a compromise with the council,” Mr McNally said.

“We’ve had to strip it all down and start again.

Builders are hard at work, dismantling the original decking area outside the pub and creating five individual - lower - seating pods instead

“Now we’re creating five 3m-wide booths covering the same outside area, but lower – no more than 600mm high.”

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The rejig is costing the beleaguered pub a further £3,000, adding to mounting debt racked up during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr McNally said the platform was to be the pub’s “lifeline” after 14 long months with the doors closed that have put the firm nearly £100,000 in the red and seen thousands of pints of beer poured down the drain.

“We have been furloughed for the last year and are £90,000 in debt,” he said.

The 110-year-old Scotsman Lounge, on Edinburgh's Cockburn Street, is set to reopen on Monday after 14 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic
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“We took on staff for the reopening who lost their jobs elsewhere.

“This was their lifesaver too.”

Mr McNally said the official permit had come through on April 1, with permission to keep the wooden structure in place until September 30.

But yesterday a council official visited the premises to say a complaint had been made and the structure must come down, sparking fears over the future of the pub.

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Landlords Daniel and Finbarr McNally take a short breather as work continues a pace to tear down and revamp a new outdoor seating area at the historical Scotsman Lounge in time to open when lockdown restrictions lift on Monday

“This platform is the only way we are going to be able to survive,” he said.

“Now we have been told to take it down less than 72 hours before we were due to open.

“It was our lifeline after lockdown. This could signal the end of our business.”

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The McNally brothers have expressed their gratitude to JCB Builders, who have cancelled long-awaited holidays and days off a bid to complete the works this weekend.

They have also thanked pub customers and friends, after being bombarded with messages of support.

In a message on social media, they said: " It might not get completed in time, but at least this keeps the staff in jobs and will allow us to open.

“The pub has been there a lot longer than any of us, and with the continued support of our loyal customers hopefully it will still be here in another 100 years.

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“So hopefully see you all on Monday.”

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