Maule closure raises hospitality fears in Glasgow
Glasgow’s hospitality economy, which has helped turn it into a visitor attraction in recent years, is now facing devastation unless action is taken, according to sector operators.
The city has not recovered from the exodus of office workers that accompanied the pandemic and is now witnessing the loss of night-time buses and the impact of the low emission zone.
Brian Maule at Le Chardon d’Or, one of the city’s best-known fine-dining restaurants and popular with celebrities such as Rod Stewart and Morgan Freeman, is the latest and most high profile closures. It follows the loss of the Michelin-praised Monadh Kitchen in Bearsden.
Mr Maule, who was previously head chef at Le Gavroche, regretted the series of factors which have combined to force his decision.
“We have tried so hard to fight against the financial burden of the ‘new normal’ world we live in, but it has forced our hand, for now, with immediate effect,” he said.
“Surviving through Covid, then spiralling into a cost of living crisis, increased home working, plunging property values, lack of support for the hospitality sector.
“All these damaging factors plus many more have weighed heavily on us; we have tried so hard to see it through — for our fantastic team, whom we feel so sorry for, but also for the city that we have been part of for the last 22 years.”
The restaurant closures come amid wider concerns over the decision by First Bus to scrap the entire night bus network in Glasgow because of low passenger numbers since the pandemic.
Michael Bergson, who owns the Buck’s Bar chain and Thundercat Diner in the city, has criticised the authorities for allowing the city to decline and wants Maule’s closure to prompt a response.
“The city lies in a state of filth and dilapidation.” he wrote in a LinkedIn post. “The area around his restaurant used to be full of office workers. Now the majority of them are empty as people work from home and many of the offices are now to let.
“Rates relief seen in other parts of the UK has never materialised. Restaurants in Glasgow are being chased for six figure sums that they wouldn’t be facing if they were in England.
“The LEZ policy has reduced taxi numbers dramatically. People are avoiding the City Centre as getting home becomes more and more challenging. It’s about to get a lot worse as late bus services are being cancelled.”
Mr Bergson, who has been a severe critic of government inaction towards the hospitality sector, suggested a number of measures that could be taken but said the First Minister Humza Yousaf is too pre-occupied with constitutional matters.
In a challenge to Mr Yousaf, he said: “Can we look at rates relief? We encouraged people to work from home, how can we encourage them to get back to the office? Can we subsidise late night bus travel and help promote it?
“How can we work together to clean up the City Centre and promote development? How can we make it easier for small businesses to get started and make the City Centre more vibrant? How about a trialing a late night rail service now that Scotgov owns Scotrail?
“But no. He was on a skateboard launching ‘The Summer of Independence’. Says it all.”
One respondent to Mr Bergson’s post, David Low of Lowdit Partners, said: “As an extensive city traveller I can say with conviction that Glasgow has one of the filthiest and depressing city centres you’ll come across in Europe. Who would go there unless they really had to?”
Andy Smith, head of ATM evolution and design at NATS, said: “I really do feel for the hospitality industry and small businesses in Glasgow. As a former frequent visitor to bakeries, cheesemongers and eateries in the city, the smash and grab on-street parking has forced me to shop closer to home where a coffee and a few items of shopping is almost £12 cheaper now as I can park for free.”
Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken, has regularly claimed the city is thriving but in a local paper column welcomed its designation as an investment zone “to build on our economic potential, to stimulate business growth and to create more good-quality, well-paid jobs.”