It was a shock to most Dublin foodies when rumours circulated about the closure of Gruel and The Mermaid. The two restaurants had been open for 14 years, and were a staple in many people’s lives. (I for one think the fry in Gruel was one of the best in Dublin.) The dismay when it became clear that the rumours weren’t just rumours was palpable.
Today, all is becoming clear. The owners of the two establishments, Mark Harrell and Ben Gorman, have spoken to the Irish Times, and they’re not mincing their words.
“I fear for Dublin if this is the way the culture is going to go. It will just become temporary traders and boarded-up shops,” Mr Harrell said.
For Gruel and the Mermaid, 2010 was a difficult year. Between snow at the start and end of the year, and volcanic ash somewhere in the middle, trade slowed down. But that’s not what they’re attributing their closings to.
According to the Irish Times:
The combined rent on the two restaurants at 68 and 69 Dame Street was €190,000. When Mr Harrell and Mr Gorman opened the Mermaid, at number 69, in 1996, the rent was £15,000.
Some increase is obviously understandable, but that is monumental. Within those constraints, it’s a wonder that any restaurants and bars manage to stay open. According to Mark Harrell they won’t be the last of the closures.
It will be “a very busy year” for restaurant closures in the city, he predicted, with levels of custom during January and February – traditionally quiet for the industry – likely to force several traders out.
“It will be the small, interesting restaurants that go. It’s not going to be the Starbucks and the McDonald’s. But then what’s left? Where’s the interest? Where’s the joy?”
He’s got a point. Can’t help but think of Maser and Damien Dempsey’s joint effort:
They’ve got a point too.