Edinburgh's Scotsman Hotel warns cafe at risk of closure because of North Bridge disruption
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The hotel owners are urging council chiefs to create a pedestrian walkway from the east to the west side of North Bridge to make it easier for people to reach the cafe, as well as relocate the site compound and cancel the year-long extension of the closure of the western footpath.
In a written submission to the city’s transport and environment committee, Scotsman Holdings say they are suffering a “devastating loss of footfall and resultant revenue” for both the cafe and the hotel due to the lack of pedestrians going past the premises, the lack of any signage advertising they are still open and people’s inability to see the entrance from the east side of North Bridge or cross over to it.
And the company warns: “The impacts now being experienced by the current works to the North Bridge are so significant that the hotel’s landmark Grand Café is threatened with closure, potentially resulting in redundancy for the staff.”
North Bridge was identified in 2017 as needing a full refurbishment. Earlier this month, a document revealed the £62 million project is now expected to last until June 2025, five years later than the original completion date.
Scotsman Holdings took over the hotel – once the home of the Scotsman, Evening News and Scotland on Sunday – in 2017 after the previous operators called in the liquidators.
In its submission to the committee, the company says the idea of a Grand Cafe aimed at the public came about during the design development when it was in dialogue with various parts of Edinburgh council, including planning. “The former hotel restaurant was used, in its previous tenure, as the breakfast and dining room for the hotel and as such members of the public were not encouraged to enter the restaurant (or hotel for that matter) through this North Bridge entrance. We were actively encouraged by the city to bring this historic and important part of the North Bridge retail experience back to public use.
"With that in mind we purposely repositioned the hotel restaurant to the floor below, leaving us totally exposed, given that our principal audience for the Grand Café was now from North Bridge or from the Scotsman steps (which has seen a drastic reduction in use since the start of the bridge works).”
But the company says that despite Festival time normally being the busiest time of year, the hotel is now suffering from “the poorest pedestrian experience in the city”.
It says: “The whole frontage of the Scotsman Hotel and Grand Café is visually blocked by hoardings, Heras fencing, temporary containers and all the Balfour Beattie clutter. There is now no opportunity for the pedestrian to cross over to the Grand Café or the Hotel.”
It adds the situation is harming the hotel’s reputation, with the disruption from the bridge works mentioned in online reviews, and it is finding difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff because of the problem of getting to work.
As well as a walkway, the hotel is asking for the current Heras fencing to be replaced by wire or Perspex hoardings so the cafe can be seen from the other side of the street, and temporary lighting and signage.
A report to the committee by council officials says the project team is liaising with stakeholders on improvements, including possible relocation of the site compound.