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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Racist onslaught puts paid to Poles' Capital bar dream (UK)

Two Polish women have told how they were forced to give up running an Edinburgh bar because of a sustained campaign of racist abuse.

Anna Brudnowska, 28, and Ewa Aromanowicz, 31, said they endured persistent taunting, abuse and intimidation during their 18-month stint at the helm of the former PRL bar in Bonnington Road.

The business partners claim they were plagued by up to 20 threatening phone calls per day - some making reference to gas chambers and the Holocaust. In the most extreme incident last year, a man shouting abuse smashed the bar with a hammer.

Trade suffered so badly as a result, the pair said they had to cut their losses and end their three-year lease early in September.

"In the beginning the business was going well because we had done a major refurbishment and we were trying to open a nice new bar for customers," said Ewa. "We had managed to do that but soon we were being hassled on a regular basis.

"On busy nights, like Friday and Saturday, we were being phoned constantly and the verbal abuse we got was horrific.

"We received calls with people pretending to be from Scottish Gas, saying there was a special offer for Polish people where they had two gas chambers for the price of one."

The licensees said they suspected most of the abuse stemmed from one family, who were "very unhappy that there was a Polish place there".

"Every busy night we had, I knew there would be a problem with them calling or trying to fight the customers," said Ewa.

Ms Brudnowska, who was co-manager at PRL - which has now been relaunched as Foxes Bar - said she feared the Polish community had become a target. "It seemed like many people around Leith felt upset that there were more Polish people around. It was very upsetting but, because of that, we could not run our business.

"Edinburgh can be quite small in a way and if people hear that there may be knives and hammers flying about, they don't want to go there. Since that (hammer] incident, it all went downhill. I'm sure we were not welcome in the area."

A police spokesman said: "Lothian and Borders Police can confirm that inquiries were carried out in 2009 following incidents of a racial nature at a bar in Bonnington Road.

"A 37-year-old man was arrested and charged with alleged vandalism and weapon offences following an incident within the premises.

"In total, three reports of vandalism at the property on Bonnington Road have been made this year.

Two of these have been solved, while enquiries are ongoing in relation to the third incident."

The Iona Pub Partnership, which owns over 20 pubs across Scotland, including the former PRL Bar, could not be reached for comment.