SHOPS around The Open Championship course are to throw open their doors until midnight in a bid to profit from thousands of spectators flocking to next week’s event at Muirfield.
Almost all of the traders along Gullane’s main street – about half a mile from Muirfield’s main entrance – started extending their opening hours yesterday.
They are hoping the late hours will draw in some of the 160,000 people expected to attend Britain’s biggest golf tournament, which is returning to Gullane for the first time since 2002.
The late-night opening has been set up after traffic restrictions – including parking bans along the town’s main thoroughfare and a one-way system – left business owners fearing they may not get any extra trade across the seven-day tournament starting on Sunday.
Falko Burkert, master cakemaker at the town’s German bakery, said it started opening from 6am until midnight as of yesterday in a bid to attract visitors. The eatery usually opens from 9am to 6pm in summer.
Mr Burkert said: “When The Open is on, most people will spend the whole day in the grounds because the tickets are about £75. I believe the whole business will shift towards the evening.”
Of the traffic restrictions, Mr Burkert said: “It will be a disaster for people who live here and want to come and visit. To deliver, to stop, to load – it will be as awful as Edinburgh.”
Lynne Barr, owner of Harris tweed outlet BlackHouse, is planning to stay open until about 10pm.
She said: “I don’t think the town is going to be busy at all during the day. We’ve been told it’ll be like a ghost town, but I’m forever hopeful.”
Gannon Sports and childrenswear outlet The Merrygoround are among other traders that will stay open as late as possible.
Merrygoround owner Elaine Ramanauskas said: “If you talk to any retailer, the concern is that people aren’t going to have the opportunity to stop and shop.”
All pubs in East Lothian have been allowed to open until 1am during the Open period by the council.
Train operator ScotRail has set up an operational hub at nearby Drem – the closest rail station to Muirfield. More than 50 staff will be dedicated purely to services for The Open.
Train engineers will be stationed at Drem and Edinburgh Waverley in efforts to limit train faults, with a dedicated announcer at the small East Lothian station.
Live traffic updates will be provided by the police and partner agencies via the Twitter link #OpenTravel.
Superintendent Phil O’Kane, from Police Scotland, said: “The focus of the policing operation is on keeping people safe.”