‘Harry Potter’ cafe owner in ‘limbo’ following fire damage last year

Renovation work at The Elephant House in Edinburgh cannot get under way until landlords make the building structurally sound, the owner says.

29 July 2022

The owner of a cafe where JK Rowling wrote parts of the Harry Potter books, that was damaged in a fire last year, has said the ongoing closure is having a “direct impact” on tourism.

David Taylor, who owns The Elephant House on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh, says he is not able to open the well-known cafe because the company which owns the building went into liquidation soon after the fire last year.

The blaze started in the basement of the neighbouring Patisserie Valerie on August 24 last year, spread through the building and gutted The Elephant House and several other businesses.

Emergency services spent more than 24 hours tackling the blaze and one firefighter was taken to hospital following the incident.

Edinburgh city fire
The owner of the Elephant House says he is in limbo waiting on the go ahead for renovations to take place after a devastating fire last August (Matt Donlan/PA)

The front room of the cafe was gutted by fire and the back room, where JK Rowling spent time writing Harry Potter, sustained water and smoke damage.

Mr Taylor says he has the funds from his insurance company to start the work, but claims he has been left in limbo because no work has been done in the building to make it structurally safe.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Taylor said the prolonged closure was having an impact on tourism.

Edinburgh city fire
The Elephant House Cafe where JK Rowling penned her first Harry Potter novel, on Edinburgh’s George IV Bridge, after a fire broke out in the adjacent Patisserie Valerie (Jane Barlow/PA)

“It’s having a direct effect on tourism in Edinburgh,” he said.

“We’re getting contact on social media all the time from fans about opening again.”

Liquidators Moorfields are currently managing the process, but Mr Taylor said there has been a lack of contact with them.

The liquidators said they are “continuing to seek to address the issues surrounding the fire”.

Mr Taylor said: “I’ve not been able to get any information out of them at all. That’s been my biggest issue.”

“We don’t have any income at the moment. We have the money to refurbish the property, but our livelihood is going to start to suffer if we don’t do that soon.”

Edinburgh city fire
The cafe was damaged in a fire last year (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Refurbishment cannot get under way until the property is structurally sound, said Mr Taylor.

“The landlord’s obligation under the lease is to make the property habitable, which it is not at the moment,” he said.

“There is structural work to do to ceilings and floors.

“None of the businesses basically can get kept open until this happens, there are six different businesses so it’s a difficult situation.”

A spokesperson for Moorfields said: “The liquidators understand that the fire at George IV Bridge has left the property owners and tenants in an extremely distressing and frustrating situation.

“Unfortunately, the fire occurred prior to the liquidators’ appointment. However, the liquidators have and are continuing to seek to address the issues surrounding the fire to try and assist the property owners and tenants as soon as possible.”

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