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Reopening Cowgate fire club given alcohol licence

The La Belle Angele site in the Cowgate. Picture: Rob McDougall

The La Belle Angele site in the Cowgate. Picture: Rob McDougall

  • by DAWN MORRISON
 

La Belle Angele, the club destroyed in a major fire in 2002, has taken a major step forward to reopening in a move that has struck a chord with promoters concerned at the lack of venues in Edinburgh.

La Belle Angele was burned to the ground in the 2002 Cowgate fire. It has been granted a licence to sell alcohol, despite the city’s tough rules restricting the number of pubs and clubs in the centre.

The application, before the council’s licensing board earlier this week, received the backing of music promoters including Regular music, the Edinburgh Fringe and Thick Skinned’s Cathie Rae.

They – along with the club’s owner – want to see it return to its glory days.

As one of the Capital’s most popular venues it played host to a legendary Oasis gig in 1994 as well shows by The Libertines and Shooglenifty.

The popular club, which had occupied Hastie’s Close, was destroyed in blaze which raged for more than 52 hours and also destroyed Capital icons such as The Gilded Balloon and the Bridge Jazz Bar.

It had undergone a major refurbishment just months before the fire.

Founder Hafid Mahboub said: “We’re delighted with the amount of support we have received, both from the licensing board and from the many people who are keen for us to come back. There’s a lack of quality live music venues in Edinburgh and it’s very difficult to find places to have decent music in contrast to Glasgow.

“La Belle Angele is something that we were not going to give up on – it’s my baby and I wasn’t going to let it slip away just because of a fire.”

The SoCo venue, which is still under construction, is on course to open in December – 11 years on from the fire.

Plans for its Phoenix-like resurrection come as the Capital faces a shortage in small to medium music venues.

Mr Mahboub said: “A lot of people who remember coming to La Belle Angele first time round are looking forward to us opening again.

“I think the secret of our success was the quality of the music we brought, in the staff and the atmosphere – it was just the right recipe.

“We want to go back and doing what we do best.”

City centre councillor and licensing board member Joanna Mowat, who supported the application, said: “It’s something that is brought up quite a lot that there is a lack of small, quality music venues in the city. La Belle Angele is doing something very different to other venues and I think it will be very much welcome.”

Venues lost in recent years include the old Bongo Club in New Street – demolished and now a gap site – the much-loved Venue, which is now a posh gallery, and the Roxy Art Centre and Forest Cafe.

 

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