The City Council’s Licensing Board met on 28 January to consider the application by Signature Pubs for permission to serve alcohol at their new Holy Corner establishment from 9am – 1am, six days a week and only very slightly less on Sundays. Many people living in the vicinity, and others who regularly walk past the former Bank of Scotland building, or attend one of the adjacent three churches, felt that these hours were too long. Various reasons were given by objectors, including (i) the large number of licensed premises already operating in the neighbourhood; (ii) the danger of noise and other disturbance (shouting, car/taxi doors being slammed, engines revving etc.) from customers exiting licensed premises in the wee small hours — which, as everybody knows, can go on for an hour or more after the end of service; and (iii) the City of Edinburgh Council’s own declared awareness of the health risks associated with alcohol consumption. Also (iv) Signature Pubs had maintained their target market to be families. The Licensing Board’s own official Policy states that “The Board is very aware of the risk of harm to children and young persons’ health and this will be of paramount consideration when determining applications”.
Finally (v) it was felt that the model proposed by Signature Pubs was more appropriate to a city centre location than to Bruntsfield. There were two further concerns: first, that the capacity (300+ covers) of the proposed new establishment would give rise to parking problems in an area already fully stretched and second, that deliveries to the pub at the front of the building would clash with the confirmed Public Right of Way which also runs along the front of the building.
A number of local residents, along with Merchiston Community Council Licensing Spokesperson Bridget Stevens, outlined these concerns to the Board and requested a reduction in the licensing hours, to a more reasonable 11am – 11pm Monday to Saturday and 12 noon – 10pm on Sundays. The ensuing discussion took place directly between members of the Board and the representative of Signature Pubs, with the objectors not being allowed to provide supplementary information or correct any inaccurate statements.
The Board’s decision, after a lengthy debate, was to allow the sale of alcohol from 11am – 12 midnight seven days a week. In addition the Board gave permission for music to be played.
Since the Board meeting in January there has been a significant development: Signature Pubs have appealed the Board’s decision and two of the ward councillors who eventually supported local residents are currently the subject of litigation.
In addition, the application 19/01436/FUL for umbrellas in the forecourt was withdrawn on 14 April 2019. This may be related to the occurrence of a traffic accident at this busy corner, when a young man was hit by a taxi after stepping off a bus. This highlights the importance of preserving the pedestrian right of way across the forecourt, which Signature Pubs had planned to cover with outdoors seating and tables, thus blocking the route.
Bridget Stevens, a former Chair of Merchiston Community Council, has lived in Merchiston for around 25 years. In her current role as Licensing Lead, she attends CEC Licensing Board meetings and other city council meetings as appropriate. She represents MCC on the Board of FOMBL (Friends of the Meadows & Bruntsfield Links) and was in the past a trustee of Dig-In community grocer and of the Eric Liddell Centre. She chairs a small local charity, Tap into IT, which introduces older residents to the joys of the internet, while another of her volunteering activities is as an audio describer of live theatre for the benefit of visually impaired members of the audience. In 2012 she was made a Deputy Lieutenant of the City of Edinburgh.