Superpub revamp at iconic Lothian Road music venue

Work is due to start next week on converting one of the Capital's most iconic live music venues into a superpub.

Wednesday, 20th July 2016, 10:58 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 4:53 pm
The Picture House in Lothian Road. Picture: Neil Hanna

The Picture House in Lothian Road – which used to echo to the sounds of Pink Floyd and Queen – is to be transformed into a huge JD Wetherspoon bar after a campaign to save it failed last year.

Wetherspoon said building work would begin on Monday. The company is investing £2.5 million to develop the site.

The pub, which will be named The Caley Picture House, will be split over the ground and first-floor levels and is scheduled to open on December 6.

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Wetherspoon said a total of 70 new jobs would be created.

The company’s chief executive, John Hutson, said: “We are looking forward to opening our new pub in Edinburgh.

“The former Picture House has a rich history. However, the building has lain derelict for more than two years.

“We believe that people in the city will be pleased that the building is being restored and once again put to good use.”

The Picture House began life as the Caley Cinema before its first incarnation as a music venue under the banner Caley Palais.

At the height of its acclaim, it played host to musical giants including Queen, The Smiths and New Order.

It was converted to The Amphitheatre, Century 2000 and Revolution before being restored to its art deco roots in 2008 as the Edinburgh Picture House under the stewardship of new owners MAMA and Company.

It closed in December 2013 and news of Wetherspoon’s plans to turn it into a superpub sparked immediate protests.

An online petition opposed to the change clocked up nearly 3000 signatures in a matter of minutes. International music star Amanda Palmer, Edinburgh songstress Nina Nesbitt and DJ Vic Galloway were among those backing the petition.

Campaigners went on to collected more than 13,000 signatures in a bid to save the venue.

Politicians including the then Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi supported the campaign.

Health campaigners including Alcohol Focus Scotland also spoke out on the superpub proposals, warning that increasing alcohol supply would lead to greater social harm for the area.

The group said alcohol availability in Edinburgh dwarfed that in the rest of Scotland, with 285 alcohol outlets within a ten-minute walk of Tollcross.

But the council’s planning officials recommended approval of the scheme and in April last year councillors voted 6-4 to give it the go-ahead.

Those who fought the plans still feel the loss of the live music venue as a blow.

A spokesman for Save the Picture House campaign said: “Funnily enough I passed it the other day and wondered if work was ever going to start on it.

“Alas, Edinburgh council were proven incompetent and non-responsive to public opinion last time. Scores of written objections, support of MSPs, a massive petition all amounted to nothing. I can’t see anything changing, much as the vast majority of the Edinburgh public wants it.”