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Iconic Bewley's café set to close permanently with loss of 110 jobs

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Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street reopened in 2017

Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street reopened in 2017

Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street reopened in 2017

The landmark Bewley's café on Dublin's Grafton Street is set to close its doors permanently with the loss of 110 jobs, the company confirmed last night.

The historic restaurant and café known as Bewley's Oriental Cafés has been an iconic Dublin landmark since it opened its doors in 1927.

But a combination of factors, including high rents and operating costs, coupled with the loss of footfall during the Covid-19 lockdown has rendered the operation unsustainable, according to its owners.

In a statement last night, the company said: "Bewley's Café Grafton Street Limited confirms that the management of the Bewley's Café on Grafton Street has written to staff to inform them that it is with deep regret and great sadness that it is likely to be necessary to permanently close the café over the coming weeks.

"The proposed closure would result in the loss of all jobs in the café. The management team will now enter into a period of consultation with the impacted employees."

It added that the company wanted to "sincerely thank all of the staff who work in the business for their loyalty and dedication".

"We would also like to thank our loyal customers over the decades," it said.

The café is currently owned by artist Paddy Campbell. It is a protected structure and a landmark for generations of Dubliners and visitors to the capital alike.

However, with annual rents of €1.5m, the impact of the lockdown was effectively a final nail in the coffin for the establishment, a source told the Irish Independent.

It is understood the café's managing director Col Campbell told staff the news in a phone call followed by email yesterday. In it he said the additional cost involved to refit the restaurant to allow for social distancing, once restaurants are allowed to re-open on June 29, was simply not viable.

He said this would mean the café would be operating at a substantial loss into the future.

The jobs that will be lost are a combination of both full and part-time positions.

The company would not reveal the terms of any redundancy package except to say that it will be consulting with staff in the coming days.

The multi-storey café, with its Art Deco façade inspired by the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922 and an ancient Egyptian themed meeting place, was a familiar haunt to the likes of Irish literary legends including James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Patrick Kavanagh and Sean O'Casey, all of whom were patrons.

It also featured in the works of Irish writer John Banville, writing as his alter ego Benjamin Black in his atmospheric depictions of Dublin in the 1950s as part of the Quirke thriller series.

The landmark featured original stained glass windows designed by the artist Harry Clarke as well as 10 open fireplaces.

But it had been struggling to stay afloat in recent years after undergoing a €12m refurbishment which saw it close in 2016 and re-open the following year amid high rents.

It closed previously in 2004 and was re-opened the following year by entrepreneur Jay Bourke but was taken over by the Bewley's coffee company again following the economic crash in 2008.

When it emerged that it was to close in 2004, Dublin lawyer and campaigner Damien Cassidy formed the 'Save Bewley's Campaign' in order to protect the iconic site as well as 140 jobs at the time.

Mr Cassidy had argued the café was akin to the iconic Crown Tavern in Belfast city centre.

That was taken over by the UK's National Trust when it looked like it might close in the 1970s.

Irish Independent