Celebrity chef Paul Rankin blames flag protests for Belfast restaurant closure
One of Belfast's most famous restaurants has shut, it was disclosed today.
Celebrity chef Paul Rankin, who once owned a string of eateries across Ireland, blamed the continuing Union flag protests for his decision to close his flagship restaurant, Cayenne.
"Location is key in the restaurant business, particularly at a time of economic downturn, and our current setting is no longer sustainable. The disturbances around the flag protest, particularly during the Christmas period, also confirmed our decision," he said.
Cayenne officially stopped trading on Sunday.
"The lease at our current location has now come to an end and, given the change in the Shaftesbury Square area over the last number of years, it doesn't make sense to undertake the necessary investment required to continue to operate there at this time.
"The once 'golden mile' of Belfast has suffered badly from a lack of regeneration and a general decline in popularity and appearance, even the Ulster Bank with its gable end statues across from us is to close shortly," he added.
Paul Rankin is one of Northern Ireland's best known cooks. He won the country's first Michelin star when he and his Canadian wife, Jeanne, opened the fine-dining Roscoff Brasserie during the height of the Troubles in 1989.
Cayenne later replaced Roscoff at the same location on Shaftesbury Square.
But, after hitting hard times, he was forced to sell off his chain of Rankin Cafes and Rain City restaurant.
At that time he claimed to have expanded his businesses too quickly and said he wanted to re-focus efforts on Cayenne which was given a £50,000 re-vamp in 2003.
The decision to close his last kitchen has resulted in the loss of 18 full and part-time jobs, however Paul Rankin has insisted he will re-open a new restaurant.
"We've enjoyed a very loyal and supportive relationship with our customers over all these years and hope that they will bear with us while we find the right location to re-establish our restaurant," Mr Rankin said.
"Cooking is my ultimate passion and I am committed to establishing a new kitchen inspired by both Cayenne and Roscoff before it. There has already been some high level talks taking place about other exciting business and restaurant opportunities but I am open to identifying as many different options as possible so it really is too early to confirm any details as yet."
The Rankin brand selection of foods will continue to be sold in supermarkets across the UK and Ireland.