Portobello bar The Boathouse launches appeal as charity honesty box is stolen

The Boathouse in Portobello is appealing for donations after their 'pay what you feel' honesty box was stolen.

Published 11th Sep 2020
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

The Boathouse in Portobello extended the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and included an honesty box 'pay what you feel' option on Thursdays, with all proceeds being donated to Edinburgh-based homelessness charity Steps To Hope.

Now the staff and owner of The Boathouse are appealing for information after the honesty box for the charity, containing between £500-£1000, was stolen on the evening of the 10 September.

Speaking about the theft, bar manager Blair Hay said: "We decided to extend the Eat Out to Help Out scheme after the government stopped subsidising it.

"We felt like we needed to do more for the community so we decided to offer 100 per cent off food and soft drinks on Thursdays with the intention that people who, maybe can't afford to eat out normally, would be able to come along and get a restaurant quality meal for free. Anyone else could pay what they feel, with all donations going towards a local homelessness and addiction charity.

"We decided to collect money for that using an honesty box, which was deliberately put in an inconspicuous place so there was no pressure on those who couldn't pay. We didn't want any implication that you had to pay in case someone came along who couldn't afford to.

"We didn't check on the amount throughout the day, and understand that wasn't necessarily the wisest. We did think about the security of the bucket but we had staff and customers all around and we thought it was more important for people not paying, not to feel embarrassed.

"At 6.45pm I was in the kitchen when one of the waitresses came running, screaming, and I thought she was being chased by a dog. So I ran out the door and was looking behind her. One of the bartenders had already ran off in pursuit so we followed after the waitress shouted, 'he's taken the bucket'."

Some of the staff chased the culprit, who was on a bike for some time, through streets of Portobello, and eventually cornered him close to a block of flats on the High Street, where it is alleged he brandished a knife. He ran off into a building site, where police with dogs continued the search.

The estimated amount in the bucket is £500-£1000 but the staff don't know the full amount as it was all donations.


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The incident was captured on the bar's CCTV, which they have shared on their Facebook page. The post asks that people share the video to help find the culprit, "who threatened our staff with a knife, and to raise awareness for the charity."

The Boathouse team have also launched a Just Giving page to raise £1000, in order to make the donation to Steps to Hope.

Blair adds: "We are probably going to donate something or match donations but we also want the people of Portobello to help because at the end of the day, he never stole anything from us, he stole from a charity."

On the Just Giving page, the team wrote: "We are trying to support the homeless in and around Edinburgh by allowing those who are unable to afford Eat Out To Help Out to come by and pay what they can afford for their food every Thursday. All money in the Honesty Box at the end of the day was being donated directly to Steps To Hope, a charity fighting homelessness and providing help for those suffering with addiction in Edinburgh.

"We wanted there to be no judgement if somebody was unable to pay, so our Honesty Box was placed in an area every customer would walk past. Unfortunately, this trust was taken advantage of and a young man sprinted off with all of the charity money.

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"We don't think it's fair that those affected most by this crime will be the very people struggling the most right now, so we would like to raise money to recoup the funds (and hopefully more) to donate to Steps To Hope."

Donations are currently at £297 and you can find out more and donate to the Boathouse here.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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