Edinburgh pub owners 'cautiously optimistic' about grand reopening after Covid lockdown

The Covid-19 pandemic has been painful for just about every business outside of Bezos-owned Amazon.

But few have suffered more than Scotland’s beloved boozers across the various lockdowns the country has been subjected to.

And for many pubs in Edinburgh, the loss of tourism and lack of outdoor space in the city centre has meant a difficult period for publicans.

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The Scotsman Lounge was one such pub – an intimate public house situated at the top of Cockburn Street. The venue has struggled with a multitude of issues since Covid reared its ugly head.

The 110-year-old Scotsman Lounge on Edinburgh's Cockburn Street

Brothers Daniel and Finbarr McNally own the Lounge as well as the Kilted Pig on Colinton Road, and the newly-acquired Home bar on Home Street.

They say the problems have been different for each establishment they run.

With the Lounge being a ‘wet-led pub’ – a bar that doesn't serve food and relies entirely on the sale of drinks – they have had to pivot and build a new structure out the front of the venue to be able to open.

The Kilted Pig, however, is more food focused and on reassuring families it is safe to return. The Home bar was purchased right before the first lockdown and has not been open yet.

The McNally siblings said they believe it could be three years before they are back to where they were pre-pandemic.

On their journey to opening back up, the pair said: “The first lockdown we could sort of see coming, so we were able to plan what to do with the stock. But like many bars we thought we were out the other end when the first lockdown eased and hoped we would be able to recoup our losses.

“When it came to the second lockdown, it did get us by surprise and we lost a lot of money on stock due to the uncertainty. We had staff watching each briefing by the First Minister waiting to find out if they’d be working next week. It was absolutely horrible for mental health.”

Matters had been made worse when breweries raised prices by 2.5-3 per cent, meaning the Scotsman Lounge has had to raise their prices by 10/12p a pint.

But the brothers remain cautiously optimistic and are extremely grateful for the support of their locals as well as the Scottish Government.

Stefano Pieraccini 25, is also positive about his Edinburgh bars reopening on Wednesday – the Westroom and Broughton Bar – saying they are in good shape to welcome people back.

He said: “The confidence is different now compared to July 2020.

"We saw the young people flock out and the older generation were a bit more sceptical. But now they’re running around with their double jags. It's fantastic.

"You can feel people are more confident this time. Of course Covid has not gone away, but you cannot keep moving the goalposts and we have to move on at some point.”

Mr Pieraccini said before the lockdown that he had carried no debt, but the pandemic had forced him into the red.

“[It’s] something that has happened to publicans across the capital," he said.

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