Obituary: Brian Crawford

Director of the Dome in Edinburgh and Tramp nightclub in London. Picture: TSPL
Director of the Dome in Edinburgh and Tramp nightclub in London. Picture: TSPL
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BORN: 8 June, 1960, in Fenton Barns, East Lothian. Died: 29 October, 2014, in Florida, aged 54.

The affable, flamboyant and extrovert Brian Crawford became a major figure in the nightlife in both Edinburgh and London, in charge of the Dome on George Street and at London’s famous Tramp. He instinctively knew how to “dress” a room and took immense care in the decorations for his clubs. But Crawford was also canny and an excellent businessman – he knew how to increase profitability without ruining the original charm and uniqueness of an establishment.

He was host to some of the great stars of the nightclub world. Royal guests included Princesses Margaret, Anne and Diana, and the likes of Frank Sinatra, Michael Caine and Jack Nicholson often dropped by.

Crawford was hugely popular and welcoming to everyone and blessed with a broad smile, an infectious laugh and a fine sense of mischief.

Brian Irmler Crawford was born at Fenton Barns, East Lothian and after school locally trained in hospitality management and worked at the Royal Garden Hotel in London’s Kensington and managed Acanthus in Bruntsfield Place.

Crawford then worked as a croupier in London’s Mayfair and managed a brasserie owned by Michael Caine in Miami.

In 1992 he returned to Edinburgh and joined Caledonian Heritable located in Hope Street. The company’s assets include the Dome, a former Royal Bank office, with a grand porticoed entrance which is arguably the most impressive bar interior in Edinburgh.

The businessman Johnny Gold decided to sell his London nightclub, Tramp, in 2003 to the owner of the Dome, Kevin Doyle, and Crawford was appointed a director of the London-based Coney Island Ltd. He also joined the board of Doyle’s Caledonian Heritable.

Crawford thrived on the hectic life – no matter how chaotic a Saturday night in Tramp, Crawford was always on the Shuttle first thing to have Sunday lunch with his mother, Dora, at her North Berwick home. That was a sacrosanct weekly date.

“It’s usually a nice roast, Yorkshire pud and veg, and I love it,” he told a Scotsman interviewer a few years ago.

At both venues Crawford was fastidious in his concern for cleanliness and courtesy from the staff.

He had an exceptional eye for interior design and his decorations in the Dome, for example, during the festival and Christmas were legendary. He described them as “tasteful extravagance. I don’t do cheap, darling.”

A longtime member of Tramp, is Michael Caine, has said: “Tramp was a 50s nightclub they just cleaned up and didn’t redecorate and try to make it modern or trendy. They just left it as it was.”

The credit for preserving that sophisticated informality is due to Crawford’s intuition and acumen.

A major source of revenue for Tramp was private parties and Crawford ensured they went off like clockwork. Food, service and ambience were always just right.

In 2010 he oversaw the conversion of a fine new terrace and bar so that smokers could enjoy a cigar in some comfort and privacy. It meant smokers did not have to go out for a puff in Jermyn Street and be bombarded by the paparazzi.

Crawford loved the excitement of fronting two such prestigious venues. The celebrities appreciated his discretion in never talking to the press. Many became great friends – especially Elton John, Dame Shirley Bassey, Cilla Black, Rod Stewart, Omar Sharif and Joan Collins.

Crawford loved both the Dome and Tramp. He had the gift of being an all-seeing host without being invasive. He fitted into the glamour of Tamp with ease and found the Dome invigorating.

“The buzz down there is different” he told The Scotsman. “And probably a bit louder than I get on George Street. Not that the Dome is ever dull. But Tramp has always been a magnet for the glitterati – and the paparazzi, who have to hang about outside on the street.”

Crawford was a man of much flair and charisma whose energy never flagged. His eye for detail was impeccable. No matter how late he got to bed he was in his gym early he next morning.

Three days a week in Edinburgh and three in London was a demanding schedule but Crawford loved the pressure and the excitement. He spent two months at his home in Palm Beach, where his partner Christopher Romano was based.

Latterly, he had taken up power-boating in Florida’s waters, and was recovering from treatment for cancer when he died of a heart attack.

Crawford was much respected by all his staff and that was reflected in the announcement of his death which read: “Dearest friend and colleague to many.”

Crawford is survived by Christopher Romano.