The final hurdle to open a 915 capacity ‘superpub’ in the former Picture House in Lothian Road has been cleared by Wetherspoon.
An alcohol licence for the building was approved by the City of Edinburgh’s Licensing Board on October 26 in an area which the council’s own licensing policy says is of “serious, special concern” because of the number of existing licensed premises in the Tollcross area.
It follows the decision in April this year to grant a change of use from a music venue into a pub after more than a year of debate and a 13,400-strong online petition against the move.
Research from the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health released earlier this year showed there are 80.2 alcohol outlets per km2 in the area of Tollcross where the Picture House is based, compared with the council average of 11.7 per km2.
Councillor Chas Booth, a member of the city Licensing Board, took to Twitter to air his disappointment about the decision.
“I am really disappointed that this application has been granted,” he said.
“In my view, the community council were absolutely right that granting this would lead to a mega pub on Lothian Road which would mean more access to alcohol by more people over more hours in the day.
“If we are to rebalance the city's relationship with alcohol, the Licensing Board has to start taking its responsibilities more seriously.
“This, to me, was clearly not in the interest of improving public health therefore I think we should have rejected it.”
Andrew Brough, secretary of the Tollcross Community Council, echoed this disappointment.
He said: “The feeling is that everyone would have loved it to have gone back to a music venue because there aren't that many music venues that can hold that number.
“The vast majority wanted it to go back to a music venue, but not a pub that will be possibly one of the biggest in Edinburgh when it gets developed.
“We are already in a part of town where the council itself says we are oversubscribed by pubs."
Following the decision, councillor Eric Milligan, Licensing Board convener, emphasised that Police Scotland did not object to the license.
“The board approved this application after careful consideration, which included listening to representations from the public and also from Police Scotland, which did not make any objections," he said.
“The fact that the premises has traditionally held a liquor licence was also taken into account.”
Plans for the new 915 capacity Wetherspoon includes replacing the stage with a large bar and using the balcony as a separate bar area.
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said it is not on the agenda to host live music in the Lothian Road property but that the chain is keen to progress with turning the space into a pub.
“Wetherspoon is very keen to develop the site into one of its pubs,” Eddie said.
“At present there are no on-site or opening dates, though Wetherspoon is committed to developing the site.”
JD Wetherspoon have also been linked to a number of other large pub proposals in the city centre, including an attempt to open a bar on Victoria Street, which was refused, and one on Nicholson Street, which planners are still to reach a decision on.