Backlash against ‘student hotel’ with self-service beer tap in Edinburgh

Councillors have been accused of creating a “gated community” after approving permission for residents at a new student hotel to help themselves to beer from a self-service tap.

Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 5:21 pm

Vita Edinburgh won permission from the Edinburgh Licensing Board for a premises licence for its 230-bedroom accommodation at Fountainbridge.

The accommodation, branded a student hotel by the owners, will have a communal room, capable of holding 430 residents, who can all pour themselves up to four drinks at a time – a choice of two beers, a red wine and a white wine. There will be no public access to the communal room.

Sergeant John Young from Police Scotland Edinburgh division’s licensing department, warned councillors that alcohol-related crime and health harm is “above the Edinburgh average” in the Fountainbridge area.

An artist's impression of the plans

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Sgt Young raised concerns over “insufficient staff being present in the licensed area” and that there was a chance of “free access without challenge” to the self-service beer pump.

But Stephen McGowan, representing the applicants, reassured councillors that everyone staying in the accommodation would be aged 18 or older.

He said: “The majority of rooms are let out for 44 weeks of the year. We see ourselves as being a student hotel. We have 12 staff – three of which are in the process of applying for personal licences.”

A communal area in the accommodation will stop serving alcohol at 11pm and will include “full supervision” from staff. The alcohol can only be accessed by using a special card topped up with credit. The owners agreed that a four-drink maximum will be put on each card.

Councillor David Key said the board was in danger of “creating a gated community” where students were “sitting here, drinking their beer and going to bed”. He added: “It’s a way of basically not employing bar staff. There’s also this lack of supervision. We could have 400 people here, all drinking four beers each – having a big party, essentially.”

But licensing convener, Cllr Norman Work said: “I think you have convinced us – it is quite innovative. Having no public access is also quite beneficial.”