Festival loss hits trade in capital

Operators in ‘survival mode’ as visitor numbers decimated

This year’s Edinburgh Festival was cancelled due to coronavirus

EDINBURGH operators were in “survival mode” last month as they faced an August without the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in over 70 years.

This year’s programme of events was cancelled in April due to the coronavirus pandemic and so footfall in the city is considerably down on most years – when the festival attracts visitors from around the world (last year more than three million tickets were sold to Edinburgh Fringe events).

Stuart McCluskey, owner of Bon Vivant Group, said although August has been “OK”, “obviously there have been nowhere near the numbers we’d be doing normally at this time of year”.

This was echoed by another operator in the city – who asked not to be named – who said his pub was doing “a fraction of what we would normally do at this time of year”.

“You normally do about three times as much as normal during the Festival, and there’s no Festival,” he said.

“That and our capacity is less. For example, we have a maximum capacity – if you have large family groups – of around 20. But in reality if we don’t have groups like that it’s closer to 12 or 15. And with [recent bad weather] we can’t even use our outdoor area, which more than doubles our capacity.

“The regulars have been very supportive. It’s been nothing like what it would normally be in August, but it’s getting better.”

Louise Maclean of Signature Pub Group also said that regulars have helped the company’s venues achieve “a pattern of slow, steady growth” throughout the month.

But she added that Edinburgh tourism in general, “needs ongoing support”.

And Bow Bar manager Mike Smith said although there continues to be visitors from England and further afield, “you can’t compare it to the Festival”.

“There’s no point trying to compare it,” he said.

“It’s too depressing if you do.

“We’re really just running in survival mode.”