£10m Hotel du Vin granted right to live up to its name

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AN upmarket hotel chain has finally won its battle to serve alcohol at a new £10 million development in the heart of Edinburgh.

Hotel du Vin gained the backing of business and tourism chiefs – as well as local residents – as it sought to overturn a previous controversial decision to block the application.

Councillors had refused to make an exception to a ban on new drinks licences in the Cowgate area, which is designed to cut down on antisocial behaviour.

But, after a personal appeal from the chain's chief executive at a board meeting yesterday, councillors agreed to the U-turn.

The board was told the hotel chain could actually reduce antisocial behaviour in the area, as it specifically discourages binge drinking and promotes a wine and fine dining culture. Further concerns were also alleviated, after the firm confirmed it would relocate its main entrance to Bristo Place rather than the original earmarked location on Forrest Road.

Robert Cook, chief executive of the Hotel du Vin chain – a sister company of the Malmaison group – told the Evening News the battle for an alcohol licence had been a "painful process".

But he promised that licensing board members would not regret their decision.

Tory councillor Alastair Paisley – whose casting vote last summer wrecked the original bid for a licence – was the only member to abstain from yesterday's vote.

Mr Cook said: "You can never expect anything in life, but the support from Edinburgh stakeholders gave us a lot of confidence. There are some lessons to be learned from this – no matter how small or big your company is, you have to work hard."

He added: "We are confident that redevelopment of this site as a boutique hotel will complement the Old Town and Edinburgh as a whole."

The original decision to block an alcohol licence threw the future of the hotel into doubt and was reported to have sparked a "civil war" between senior councillors.

But in the intervening months, councillors indicated a willingness to depart from policy after granting a licence for a new Italian restaurant at the India Buildings on Victoria Street.

The solicitor for Hotel du Vin also pointed out the "rare, if not exceptional" situation of receiving support from groups such as the Old Town Association and Grassmarket traders.

Councillors said they were satisfied with the proposals after hearing of "fundamental changes" to the design, including locking the Forrest Road entrance to anyone without a room key for the hotel.

The development's bistro bar has also been relocated to the first floor, preventing any direct access from the street. Mr Wood added that draught beer would not be served, and the majority of alcohol would be consumed with meals.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said: "The licensing board has demonstrated that it's not a soft touch, but I'm glad that this hotel has been given the opportunity to operate properly."

VisitScotland area director for Edinburgh and Lothians, Ben Carter, added: "Hotel du Vin will certainly make a significant contribution to our collective ambition to grow tourism revenues."