Comment: Princes St needs a rates cut not more cafés

Picture: Contributed
Picture: Contributed
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IS THERE really the demand to support more restaurants in the centre of Edinburgh. Already many traders in the capital are struggling.

In my own restaurant business, we are very lucky that we’ve been able to hold on to a strong, and local, customer-base, but this takes a huge amount of time and effort. We don’t underestimate how lucky we are but costs are increasing annually. This year alone has brought a 5 per cent increase in rates, despite the challenging economic conditions we all face.

This week a major independent Scottish service sector provider said that trading was at its toughest for years and the following two to three years are going to see businesses pushed even more due to economic pressures and the huge rise in competition in city centres. If the council allows licensing to be changed on Princes Street something would have to give in the rest of the capital as there just isn’t the capacity to service the volume of units. Only the multiples that have huge buying power and want brand growth would be able to afford to operate.

Existing premises pay a premium in rents to match the level of supply. If there were more availability this would only squeeze existing traders who are already just scraping by. Inevitably, the independents would suffer the most as they don’t have big head-office deep pockets to get through difficult times. I can’t imagine the council or existing landlords would easily lower their prices due to the increased supply that is coming on stream.

The solution to Princes Street is not cafés and restaurants but to address the fundamental problems afflicting all high streets. Rents and, most importantly, rates need to come down to make it a thriving shopping experience that attracts independent Scottish and exciting international retailers.

At the moment Princes Street is out of the price range of most independent Scottish retailers, so how on earth could independent Scottish restaurateurs afford to trade there?

Fix that and Princes Street could regain its position as the best shopping thoroughfare in Britain, with sensational views to match.

• Carina Contini owns Centotre and The Scottish Café and Restaurant.