Brunton Bistro closes

Mar 28 2024 | By More

RAAC closure does for The Bistro at The Brunton

The popular Bistro at the Brunton, has closed – having initially survived the theatre going dark just over a year ago on March 15 2023, following the discovery of crumbling concrete above the performance spaces.

The Bistro was opened in 2006 by Musselburgh-based pals Norma Buchan and Zandra Borthwick. They brought their blossoming outside catering business into the venue, which had just been extensively refurbished and incorporated a spacious and stylish Bistro restaurant.

The Brunton Theatre. Photo: Thom Dibdin

Now the Bistro has become the latest casualty of the use of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC), known as crumbling concrete, in public sector buildings. This lightweight form of precast concrete was used in several parts of Brunton’s flat roofs.

Writing on the Bistro’s Facebook page, Norma Buchan said the Bistro had “no alternative but to close” because of “the combined effect of the closure of the Theatre, Venues 1 & 2, the reduction in office use by East Lothian Council and the current cost of living crisis.”

It will now be East Lothian Council and The Brunton Theatre Trust’s decision as to whether, or when the Bistro will re-open.

Norma Buchan said that the pandemic presented major difficulties for the Bistro’s operation, which had a heavy financial impact on its sustainability even before the discovery of RAAC in the building.

“The situation has been compounded by the lack of information on how, when and if the building problems will be resolved. Despite our very best efforts, it has not been possible to continue.”

She added: “Back in 2006 at the opening of the Bistro at the Brunton, Councillor Norman Murray suggested the facility had the potential to be a thriving social hub for Musselburgh and beyond. I believe we delivered on this in the eighteen years that we have operated.”

arts and entertainment programme

The Brunton Theatre Trust continues to provide an arts and entertainment programme for East Lothian. The Corn Exchange, Haddington is home to live comedy, music and tribute bands. In Musselburgh, the Loretto School Theatre is used for live theatre performances, films and live screenings and the Northesk Parish Church is home to classical and folk music offerings.

In a statement on the Brunton’s recently upgraded website, Michael Stitt, chair of the Brunton Theatre Trust said: “We are dedicated to bringing the very best theatre, music, dance, comedy, children’s theatre, screenings and entertainment to East Lothian, sharing it with as many people as possible.

“We are determined to drive forward with this vision and while we await updates about the future of The Brunton building in Musselburgh, we are excited to be presenting our shows at these wonderful, alternative venues.”

no current time frame

However there is no current time frame for the necessary repair of the Brunton by the East Lothian Council, or even any commitment to upgrade it at all. According to the Trust: “An options appraisal is currently being prepared which will consider a range of options regarding the building and the associated costs.”

Norma Buchan concludes her Facebook message saying: “I truly appreciate the support so many of you have offered myself and the Bistro team over the years. Taking the decision to close has been a very difficult and an emotionally draining experience for myself and the Bistro staff.

“I would however encourage everyone to share this information as it is important to me that our wonderful, loyal customers and clients learn the news of our abrupt closure before their next planned visit.

“I am sad to say goodbye to the Bistro and all it meant to all of us. Thank you once again for your support and understanding.”

Brunton Theatre Trust new-look website:
Brunton on X: @thebrunton.
Brunton on Facebook: @thebruntonmusselburgh.

Norma Buchan’s Facebook post announcing the closure:


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  1. Tom Dixon says:

    It came as a great shock when we heard the sad news that the Brunton Bistro had closed its doors for the last time. My wife, Anne and myself enjoyed visiting The Bistro, whether it was for a cup of tea, breakfast, lovely bowl of soup, lunch, or evening meal, we were made so welcome.
    Norma, Ronnie and the excellent staff we wish you all the best for the future. The food and service you provided was outstanding. You can leave The Bistro with your heads held high.
    Thank you so much.