Karen Koren: Ten years since fire but venue is thriving

We are coming up to Friday 7 December, which is a significant landmark day in my life. It marks the tenth anniversary of the biggest fire in the old town in living memory and the day my venue, The Gilded Balloon, burned down.

I was going to say that it burned to the ground but it didn’t – the building actually collapsed in the middle of the night, a week or so after the fire.

The fire fighters spent four days putting out the blaze and it affected 11 businesses in the Cowgate and North Bridge.

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It was a Saturday and the day began with me being very excited as my daughter-in-law had gone into labour with her second child. They live in Dunfermline and Susan was admitted into hospital in Kirkcaldy and I drove over to meet my beautiful granddaughter, who was born in the late afternoon.

I was driving back to Edinburgh and got a call from my then General Manager, Tony Davey, who was also looking after our bar, The Gilded Saloon. Tony said that he didn’t want to alarm me, but he was standing outside the bar, there had been a fire alarm, and the building had been evacuated. He was sure there was nothing to worry about.

The press kept calling me and I got a text from Pete Irvine at 2am saying, “Standing in the Cowgate and watching your premises burn”. I didn’t go up to watch the buildings burn, I could see the glow over the old town from my house. I went the next morning and was not allowed to enter, so was unable to recover any possessions. It was bitter sweet, a sad time, but happy for the birth of my granddaughter.

The Gilded Balloon has survived and I am very pleased to say we are very much alive and kicking.