Edinburgh restaurateurs set to lose money after order to remove patios ahead of Festival
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The city council has claimed it would be unsafe to leave the structures in place when huge crowds of visitors are expected in the famous street in August.
But restaurateurs say they have already hired extra staff for the period and warned the permanent removal of the patios will result in around 30 job losses.
The outdoor seating areas were allowed on the High Street, Cockburn Street, Victoria Street and George Street during the pandemic because of the restrictions on numbers indoors and proved a big boost for hospitality businesses. Earlier this year, the council agreed to follow Scottish Government guidance and continue a relaxed approach on planning enforcement until October.
But the Royal Mile restaurants with patios were told last month the decking areas would have to go before the Festival.
Gordon Scott, owner of Gordon’s Trattoria on the High Street, said the original deadline was July 17, three weeks before the Festival, but after talks it was extended until July 28.
"They have decided they are going to to take all the outside seating areas away. They say it’s unsafe because of the footfall in the Royal Mile in August. It's nonsense and from my perspective really frustrating.”
He said the 24 seats on the patio would have brought an income of £40,000 during August. “They have taken that away from us.”
He continued: "We’re happy the council has relented and they’re allowing us to keep it until the 28th, but at the same time there is despondency about the fact they have to come down permanently.
"They’ve said ‘Take it down and you’re not getting it back’. It’s just madness. You can go to any city centre in Europe and people want to sit outside – they enjoy the atmosphere, they enjoy the fresh air. Why would you take a seating facility like that away? They said it was because of residents complaining. I have not had a complaint at all.”
Mr Scott said the restaurants had taken on extra staff to service the patio areas and the decision to remove them would mean jobs going.
“Between ourselves, the Filling Station, the Clam Shell and Treacle over the road I reckon there’s 30 jobs which will be lost.”
His daughter Daniela Scott, who manages the restaurant, said the patio had made a massive difference. “People love it – they all want to sit there. We're going to lose a lot of money.”
She said she had tried to get information from the council for months about what was happening. “No-one as letting us know whether or not we could keep them. Cockburn Street got letters saying they could keep theirs till October, but we were left in limbo on the Mile. I was begging for someone to get back to me.
“In the end I hired five extra staff for August, including a chef, then they gave us a month's notice. I probably won’t need them now, but I’m going to have to keep them and cut everybody else's hours because there's nothing else we can do.”
The council said the decision on continuing the relaxed approach to enforcement made clear there were some streets where the structures would have to be removed earlier.
A spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic and beyond we have recognised how difficult it has been for businesses, particularly the hospitality sector, as well as the need for people to be able to socialise in a safe way. Support has included greater flexibility in allowing businesses to provide additional outdoor structures for their customers.
"It is considered that the commencement of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the associated rise in pedestrians, poses an additional public health risk relating to the temporary structures. We wrote to the relevant businesses on 10 June to advise them of this, allowing more than five weeks’ notice, and have since given a week’s extension to this.”