Businesses count the cost of art school fire

By David Allison
Good Morning Scotland reporter

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Much of Sauchiehall Street has been cordoned off for two months

Residents and businesses are to be allowed access to their premises for the first time in more than two months after Glasgow City Council confirmed the cordon around the Mackintosh building is to be reduced.

The south side of Sauchiehall Street will reopen on Saturday along with nearby Dalhousie Street at the east end of the art school.

Biggars music shop was one of the businesses inside the safety cordon.

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Biggars music shop has been forced to move to alternative premises

It has been part of Glasgow life since 1867 and took the decision to take out a lease on alternative premises in the nearby Buchanan Galleries to try to keep the show on the road.

But the cost of stocking a new shop while existing stock is inaccessible, paying for new premises and relocation, as well as the price of lost business has cost them an estimated £135,000.

And then there's the unknown of what exactly awaits them when they do get access.

Standing beside the cordon, a few feet away from the shop she has not been in for more than two months, Biggars' Gill Hutchison says this is the most dangerous time in its history for a business which has successfully operated through recessions, depressions, changes in fashion and world wars, as well as a devastating fire of its own.

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Gill Hutchison says this is a dangerous time for her business

"We thought that might take us out but we managed to come out the other side of that," she says.

"This has been a very unstable time.

"People know where we are, it's the "Biggar's building", and for us to be out of the premises has been very difficult."

Ms Hutchison says that even when they get to their premises people will still be unsure about whether they are open or not.

"And re-establishing with the mess we have got about us here is going to be no easy job," she adds.

A number of businesses that have been denied access to their premises have approached Govan Law Centre to look at what legal avenues might be open to them to secure compensation because they believe their individual insurance policies are unlikely to fully cover them for their losses.

But you don't have to be inside the cordon for your business to have been affected.

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Neil Motion said footfall was non-existent

ARTeries gallery is right beside the security barrier at the junction of Sauchiehall Street and Douglas Street.

"The footfall for business has just been non-existent really since the fire happened," says Neil Motion.

"It's been terrible for all the businesses in the area."

He says he is relieved the cordon is being relaxed but "whether pedestrians will start to flow back, time will tell".

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Dilip Kotecha says business has been badly affected

And next door in health food store, Quality Vitamins and Herbs, Dilip Kotecha says the drop in footfall has been so serious he is having to think about whether he can carry on a business which has successfully operated in Douglas Street for 22 years.

"Although we are open for the last few weeks the figures are down by nearly 35%," he says.

"Last summer was not particularly good for us but compared to it we are down significantly."

"There are still a number of customers who think we are closed.

"We are very quiet. If this continues for a few months we'll have to review whether the business can remain open or not."

The art school fire came a few weeks after another serious fire further east along Sauchiehall Street which destroyed Victoria's night club, forcing the demolition of the ruined building.

And on top of all that are the avenue works designed to improve the shopping and leisure experience along Sauchiehall street.

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Jamie O'Neill says the impact has been massive

All in all it's a perfect storm and Jamie O'Neill says the takings at his phone shop Hotspot demonstrate the impact.

"When we compare July this year with July last year there is an £8,000 difference in sales.

"For us that is massive."

The Scottish government has been offering financial assistance both to residents and to businesses.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said the cordon had been in place to protect life and its priority remained getting all businesses and residents back to their property safely.