Summerhall late licence application withdrawn after claims venue would be ‘turned into nightclub’

A popular arts venue has withdrawn a late licence application during a hearing after Edinburgh City councillors accused organisers of “turning it into a nightclub”.

Monday, 28th January 2019, 9:16 pm
Updated Monday, 28th January 2019, 9:55 pm
The Summerhall venue

Summerhall near The Meadows, applied to the Edinburgh Licensing Board for a permanent 3am licence, excluding the outdoor courtyard, to hold a host of music events. But licensing officers recommended that councillors turn down the application as there was “not sufficient” reason for it to be granted.

A change to the noise licence condition was also withdrawn during the hearing after councillors were told about a live rock concert in June 2018, when officers received “a number of noise complaints” and the applicant was deemed to be “showing negligent disregard” to rules.

Alistair Macdonald, representing Summerhall, said that organisers were “very apologetic and assured the board that it won’t happen again”.

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Local resident David Wedderburn spoke out against the proposals, stating neighbours were concerned about further noise issues. He said: “As soon as they spill out into the open space, they create noise and nuisance.”

Mr Macdonald said that Summerhall “fills a gap” following the closure of several live music venues in the Capital. He added: “This application has nothing to do with the outside area – there’s no intention to use the outside area later than 1am.

“All the nightclubs in Edinburgh have 3am licences. Summerhall is not a pub – it is a venue. People don’t regard Summerhall as a pub with music in it – they see it as a venue with events. The alternative venues for these events are nightclubs.

“There have always been club nights at Summerhall because that’s where you make the money.

“Live music costs a lot to put on and the club nights subsidise the rest. It would be the proposal to increase the club nights but there’s no evidence of any single complaint attached to the premises about any of these club nights.

“It’s not possible to change the nature of Summerhall but there’s a commercial reality.”

But councillors were not convinced that neighbours wouldn’t be impacted by the plans. Cllr Callum Laidlaw accuses the organisers of “turning Summerhall into a nightclub” – a “fairly fundamental change and residents would be quite concerned”.

Cllr Nick Cook added: “You said it would not be possible to attract events without a 3am licence – but the applicant could string off up to 25. The case for a permanent 3am license is threadbare.”

The opposition was backed by Cllr Gillian Gloyer, who added: “I do think the residents around might be entitled to feel quite aggrieved when an arts venue on their doorstep morphs into a nightclub.”

As councillors tabled a motion to refuse the application, Mr Macdonald declared that the application was being withdrawn and licensing convener, Cllr Norman Work suggested re-applying later in the year.