New use for department store
Frasers targeted for Johnnie Walker whisky experience
From department store to whisky storehouse: Diageo is in talks with the owner
Drinks company Diageo is in talks about transforming the former Frasers department store in Edinburgh’s west end into a whisky visitor centre.
The group said negotiations with the owner of 145 Princes Street were at an early stage. It is understood it is one of a number of sites the company is considering.
House of Fraser is vacating the corner site building in September following the collapse of the retail chain in the summer. It was one of the stores which new owner Mike Ashley offloaded after failing to agree a rent reduction with the landlord.
Diageo, which announced plans for a Johnnie Walker “immersive visitor experience” in April, is in talks with owner Parabola to take on a lease for the whole building.
A Diageo spokesman said: “We have begun negotiations with the owners of the building at 145 Princes Street as a potential location for the global Johnnie Walker brand experience and we will be engaging with the local authority to explore the planning potential for the redevelopment of the building.
“This is one of the city’s landmark buildings and we want to explore its regeneration in a way that respects its unique heritage and place in Edinburgh city centre.
“We cannot comment further while discussions are ongoing.”
Diageo is hoping to emulate the success of its Guinness Storehouse visitor centre in Dublin, which is Ireland’s number one paid-for tourist attraction, with 1.7 million visitors last year.
Diageo announced the Edinburgh project as the flagship of a three-year plan costing £150m to transform its whisky visitor experiences.
The company said it was the “biggest concerted programme ever seen in Scotland’s whisky tourism sector”.
Large parts of Edinburgh will be denied new bar openings under radical plans to curb the availability of alcohol in the city to cut crime and improve health. The move could impact on some major proposals such as the new Johnnie Walker Experience and Virgin Hotel in Victoria Street.
Under the new licensing arrangements the Old Town, Princes Street, Leith Street, Tollcross, Dean Village, the West End, Haymarket, Southside, Canongate and Dumbiedykes will join Cowgate and Grassmarket as already providing enough opportunities to purchase alcohol.
At a recent licensing board meeting, Green councillor Steve Burgess called for The Shore, Constitution Street, Great Junction Street, South Leith and Pilrig to be included – areas where at least 34 premises and 14 off-licences are within a 10 minute walk or 800 metres of the local centre.