THE first ever campaign to persuade shops and cafes in Edinburgh city centre to open up late during the Fringe is to be launched this year.
Business leaders have persuaded dozens of businesses to open their doors up until 7pm to help areas like Princes Street and George Street capitalise on the festival.
The “Alive After Five” initiative is being launched to coincide with the opening of the Assembly Rooms on George Street and the closure of the thoroughfare to accommodate a Spiegeltent venue.
John Lewis, Harvey Nichols and Primark are among the major names to commit to the venture, which is due to run from 6 August and 1 September.
Free parking will also be on offer by the city council after 5pm in a bid to boost the city centre following the completion of tramworks on Princes Street at the end of last month.
A free carnival afternoon is already being planned on Rose Street and Princes Street at the end of July to coincide with the start of the summer festivals season. The Assembly Rooms, which has underground a £9.3m revamp, will be open the same weekend, including Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant, which will have its main entrance on Rose Street.
Businesses in the New Town areas suffered a drop in trade last year with the temporary closure of the Assembly Rooms during the Fringe, while buses were diverted off Princes Street in September to allow botched tramworks to be fixed.
Lucy Bird, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, said: “Looking at the experience of other cities who have implemented similar initiatives, there’s a huge opportunity for Edinburgh to benefit from later shopping hours, especially over the Festival period when our population doubles.
“As a modern, international city with so much happening culturally it’s important that Edinburgh doesn’t seem ‘closed’ to those spending time here in the evenings. We hope those involved will see a sizable economic benefit.”
Meanwhile the council said it would waive parking charges after 5pm to help support the “Alive After Five” campaign, which is hoped to be replicated during the festive season.
Council transport leader Lesley Hinds said: “Edinburgh has a superb range of shops, restaurants and festival venues, and this is all about helping people to spend more time enjoying them during a period which is so important to businesses.
“We know there is pressure on Edinburgh businesses and we are committed to various initiatives that will support them.”
Andy Neal, chief executive of the Essential Edinburgh business group, said: “We are fully behind this pilot and anticipate that it will help bridge that gap between when shops normally close and when people begin to visit restaurants and cafes.
“Given experiences elsewhere, we expect the additional opening time to help trading.”