Backlash against ‘student hotel’ with self-service beer tap in Edinburgh

Councillors have been accused of creating a “gated community” after approving permission for residents at a new student hotel to help themselves to beer from a self-service tap.

Vita Edinburgh won permission from the Edinburgh Licensing Board for a premises licence for its 230-bedroom accommodation at Fountainbridge.

The accommodation, branded a student hotel by the owners, will have a communal room, capable of holding 430 residents, who can all pour themselves up to four drinks at a time – a choice of two beers, a red wine and a white wine. There will be no public access to the communal room.

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Sergeant John Young from Police Scotland Edinburgh division’s licensing department, warned councillors that alcohol-related crime and health harm is “above the Edinburgh average” in the Fountainbridge area.

An artist's impression of the plans

Sgt Young raised concerns over “insufficient staff being present in the licensed area” and that there was a chance of “free access without challenge” to the self-service beer pump.

But Stephen McGowan, representing the applicants, reassured councillors that everyone staying in the accommodation would be aged 18 or older.

He said: “The majority of rooms are let out for 44 weeks of the year. We see ourselves as being a student hotel. We have 12 staff – three of which are in the process of applying for personal licences.”

A communal area in the accommodation will stop serving alcohol at 11pm and will include “full supervision” from staff. The alcohol can only be accessed by using a special card topped up with credit. The owners agreed that a four-drink maximum will be put on each card.

Councillor David Key said the board was in danger of “creating a gated community” where students were “sitting here, drinking their beer and going to bed”. He added: “It’s a way of basically not employing bar staff. There’s also this lack of supervision. We could have 400 people here, all drinking four beers each – having a big party, essentially.”

But licensing convener, Cllr Norman Work said: “I think you have convinced us – it is quite innovative. Having no public access is also quite beneficial.”