Grassmarket in bid to bin 'drinking den' tag

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PUBS, clubs and restaurants in the Grassmarket are banding together in a bid to improve the "drinking den" image of the area.

They have formed a new group of licensed traders, with the support of police, council officials and environmental wardens, and they hope to counteract its reputation as a magnet for stag and hen parties.

Managers will be sharing information and CCTV images of any troublemakers. They also plan to promote the area together, as a safe and attractive destination for families.

More than 30 businesses in the Grassmarket, Victoria Street and George IV Bridge have already expressed their interest. They will be holding a meeting next Wednesday. The group has been set up following the multi-million-pound redevelopment of the area.

Anne Allen, the manager of The Lot, said: "We're committed to encouraging responsible drinking and trying to get the Grassmarket back to being a family friendly area. The behaviour of a minority spoils it for the majority.

"Staff don't want to have to deal with rowdy behaviour, or customers swearing or being abusive.

"There's a lot of campaigning going on to publicise the fact the area is a hidden jewel. We want to make sure people to have a safe and enjoyable experience."

The group plan to meet once a month.

They will share information in a bid to crackdown on any troublemakers. Police, council licensing officials and environmental wardens will also attend.

They are also expected to discuss a ban on stag and hen parties at their next meeting. Many pubs already ban groups wearing fancy dress or football colours.

Ms Allen added: "I think 95 per cent of us would like to see a ban. As soon as we see a group wearing bunny ears or flashing lights we know we want to avoid them."

Paul Duncan, the manager of Mamma's Pizza and a committee member of the Grassmarket Forum, said: "This is about working together to promote the area and help attract the type of clientele we want. The Grassmarket looks lovely since the redevelopment and its whole ambience is different."

Nick Cumming, 48, an events manager who lives in the Grassmarket, said most residents were optimistic about the new group.

He said: "Hopefully this will make a big difference, especially to weekend rowdiness. We hope they will finally get a grip on the antisocial behaviour that has blighted this place for a number of years."

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police also welcomed the initiative. He said: "We are committed to delivering safer communities for local residents and businesses alike. Our community beat officers already work closely with Grassmarket residents and licensees to promote a safe and secure environment."