Who's king of clubs in the Capital?

IT'S A shady business, nightlife. There may be plenty of flashing neon, strobes and disco balls in the sweaty world of Edinburgh's pubs and clubs, but step out of the pools of light and there's a murky world of wheeling and dealing, hard men and hard liquor.

But these days it's all very different. The people who run the licensed trade in Edinburgh are big businessmen looking to clean up in a straight-forward way - by getting the tills ringing.

One thing hasn't changed though. It's a world still dominated by men, who have helped to transform the reputation of Edinburgh, and making it a Mecca for anyone who enjoys a night out.

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But who are the men who have changed George Street from a boulevard of banking halls into an avenue of alcoholic attractions, and made the Grassmarket and Cowgate into one of the city's top entertainment spots?

Stefan King

Glasgow boy King, below, is the new man on the Edinburgh pub scene block. He's behind the controversial renaming of the old Hermitage bar at Morningside Station, now known as Morningside Glory. Not only did that upset the locals, but the vivid purple exterior colour scheme has got the planners in a tizz.

But then he's used to a bit of controversy. The 43-year-old self-made multi-millionaire left the private Hutchesons' Grammar School with five Highers at 17 and took his first tentative steps in business, setting up Kwik Travel which specialised in bargain basement package holidays. However, the firm closed in 1987 after hundreds of holiday makers demanded compensation for delayed flights.

For a new venture King sold his prized Mercedes, and established two sandwich shops.

Using the cash he made from selling sarnies (plus "a huge overdraft") he established his first nightclub, Club X.

It was a gay venue, which meant King had to run the gauntlet of homophobic abuse in the street, but he had tapped into a lucrative niche market.

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From there he opened Cafe Latte, the Polo Lounge, and the super-club Archaos, which he later sold for a huge profit.

It was while running Archaos that his subterranean profile was dragged into the headlines when a sacked bouncer claimed at an industrial tribunal that he'd lost his job because he'd refused to turn away Asians at the door. In a bid to prove he wasn't racist, King told of his four-year romance with black pop singer Sinitta.

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He's been threatened at gunpoint and suffered a severe beating by professional hard men, hired by drugs barons who wanted to get inside his clubs. "There's a nasty side to the club business and I suppose that's why I take it so seriously," he's said.

His G1 Group has been busy snapping up bars in fashionable areas of Edinburgh and tabling plans to create a vast new nightclub. As well as the Morningside Glory, he owns the Auld Toll Bar and Bennett's in Leven Street and the King's Arms in Home Street. There are also rumours that he is planning a takeover of the Cameo cinema and hopes to set up a luxurious hotel and fashionable nightclub in Picardy Place.

The multi-millionaire still lives on the outskirts of Glasgow and is said to have a personal fortune worth more than 12 million.

Kevin Doyle

Pub tycoon Doyle, 58 this year, is chief executive of Caledonian Heritable, which owns a string of venues in Edinburgh, including The Theatre Royal, Ryan's Bar in the West End and The Dome on George Street. His business was also the owner of the Venue nightclub before a deal was struck with developers in 2004, and he has a share in the prestigious Tramp nightclub in London.

He also owns a 55m golf complex near Dirleton in East Lothian - round which he's put up a 6ft fence cutting off access to the beach, and erected signs warning walkers and cyclists they faced prosecution for entering. As a result he's going to court in the first test of right-to-roam legislation in Scotland.

It's a long way from growing up in Leith, a tough upbringing at times Doyle's admitted, but "I wouldn't say we were poor. Actually, we lived in a house, not in a tenement".

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He has always insisted his empire was built from scratch without any outside help, and that in his youth did "a bit of this, bit of that" and some renovation of residential property. His business interests had expanded to such an extent that by 1979 he took control of Caledonian, which had started as a residential agency in 1880.

And along with Alaster Cunningham, a fellow Leither, Doyle built up Coronation Inns, which they sold to Scottish & Newcastle in 1990, before Doyle started again with Caledonian Heritable.

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He is now believed to own more than 100 pubs - including The Cumberland in the New Town, Bannerman's in the Cowgate, Stewarts and the Pear Tree on Southside, The Roseburn at Murrayfield and the Tynecastle Arms and Horseshoe Bar in Gorgie.

Kenny Waugh Jnr

The son of former Hibs chairman Kenny Waugh Jnr, 44, is now the owner of Festival Inns - the operator that owns numerous city bars and clubs including The Three Sisters, Beluga and Cargo.

Initially working part time in the pubs run by his father, the former joiner developed a feel for what was required to cut the mustard in Edinburgh's bar scene.

He went on to form his own public house business, Thistle Inns, in 1990 with his cousin, pub operator Billy Lowe. In 1997 they sold out to brewing giant Scottish & Newcastle for 20m. "Billy was a pub operator and it seemed an ideal partnership where I could find and build the pubs and he would run them," Waugh has said.

He then set up Festival Inns, which now owns bars and clubs in Edinburgh, Bridge of Allan, St Andrews and Aberdeen, and has an annual turnover of 25m.

In a recent survey from The Publican magazine, Mr Waugh was positioned 63rd in the 100 richest people involved in Britain's licensed trade, with wealth estimated at 13.3m.

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But recently he's hit controversy. He has had the hours he is allowed to operate under at his Royal Ettrick Hotel in Merchiston cut to midnight at weekends and 11pm during the week after complaints of "rowdy behaviour".

David Wither

Edinburgh-born entrepreneur David Wither heads the hugely successful Montpeliers Group which operates the newly renovated Opal Lounge in George Street, and Rick's Hotel on Frederick Street as well as the flagship Montpeliers bar in Bruntsfield.

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He was introduced to the bar trade by Scottish & Newcastle in the 1980s when he was managing pubs such as the Golf Tavern and the Waterloo Bar.

The 43-year-old then invested 500,000 to help buy the Montpeliers bar in the early 90s with his then business partner Craig McLaren and took on a third associate, Robert Elliott, before establishing the Montpeliers Group.

After building up their flagship bar, the company branched out and bought other properties in the Capital establishing the Favorit restaurant bars - which were later sold off - Indigo Yard at the West End and Assembly in Lothian Street.

Billy Lowe

Edinburgh entrepreneur Billy Lowe heads the successful Saltire Taverns company, which owns Frankenstein's bar on George IV Bridge, Espionage nightclub and the Rutland Hotel.

He started out in the pub trade more than 20 years ago when he managed a city bar for his uncle Kenny Waugh Senior.

Born in Edinburgh's Bingham housing estate, he spent nights working at the Centre Court in Colinton and Bentley's in Tollcross, before joining forces with his cousin Kenny Waugh Junior in 1983. They formed Thistle Inns and took over Sneaky Pete's in the Cowgate, expanding to take control of Maggie Dickson's in the Grassmarket and the Port Bar in Lady Lawson Street.

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After selling the firm in 1997, he set up Saltire Taverns which bought The Mission in Victoria Street and the Elim church on George IV Bridge, which became Espionage and Frankenstein's.

Stephen Thomas

The 52-year-old Welshman is chief executive and founder of Luminar Leisure Limited - the company that owns GIG (formerly Revolution) on Lothian Road, the new Jam House jazz venue on Queen Street and Lava & Ignite in Tollcross, which is why he's known as the "king of disco".

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He was a regional director at a leisure subsidiary of Whitbread Plc before founding Luminar in 1987 and began trading with the company the following year in King's Lynn. Since then, Luminar has since grown into the largest operator of licensed late-night venues in the United Kingdom.