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Bewley's Grafton Street Cafe to shut for six months with loss of 140 jobs

LOSSES of €1.2m-a-year at famous Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street - which is closing for six months with the loss of up to 140 jobs - are not "sustainable" the company's chief executive has said.

Bewley's boss John Cahill said that losing the jobs is "deeply" regretted, but blamed rent increases at the location for the decision to close the cafe for refurbishment.

Under the proposals, which Mr Cahill said are in a consultation process, workers will be offered redundancy packages.

The revamped Bewley's branch will have reduced opening hours and floorspace and will hire 70 staff.

"We obviously deeply regret the impact of these proposals upon our staff," Mr Cahill said this morning.

"Just to give you the context of where we're coming from, our rent in 2002 went up by about 55-60pc and then it doubled in 2007 just before the implosion of the Irish economy.

"So we were saddled with a rent of €1.5m."

He said that in 2012 an arbiter had established that the market rent should be half that figure.

Bewley's were unsuccessful in a legal battle to secure a reduction with the Supreme Court last year ruling in favour of the landlord Ickendel Ltd, a firm where developer Johnny Ronan is a director.

The revamp will see trading limited to the ground floor and basement and a reduced menu will focus on tea, coffee and bakery items.

"We're looking to protect our presence on Grafton Street. We're looking to achieve financial viability," Mr Cahill said, explaining the plans announced today.

Speaking on Newstalk Radio, Mr Cahill did not give a commitment to rehire existing staff when the refurbishment is complete.

"It won't be possible for us to continue those jobs so those jobs will be lost under the current proposal and again that's subject to consultation which I don't want to pre-empt.

"The new operation will have a different configuration. It will have different activities within it. The jobs will be different and we'll recruit at the time," he said.

Staff at the cafe refused to comment on the plans this morning.

The Grafton Street premises opened in 1927 and is popular with locals and tourists alike with Hollywood actor Eva Longoria recently dropping by for a fry-up.

"I've been coming here since I was a child and I'm in my 70s now," customer Clodagh Munnelly from Balinteer, said this morning.

She described the job losses as "dreadful".

"I fear it will lose the essence of yesteryear, and its uniqueness. It is a landmark, and I think it is the end of an era," she added.

The cafe previously closed its doors at the end of 2004 along with another branch on Westmoreland Street with combined losses of €2m-a-year blamed.

A Save Bewley's Cafe campaign led by then Lord Mayor Michael Conaghan was launched and the Grafton Street cafe reopened in May 2005 after it was refurbished.