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Losses blamed for closure of top restaurant

By This is Kent  |  Posted: April 04, 2009

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LONG-TERM financial losses have been blamed for the closure of Brasserie Blanc, celebrated chef Raymond Blanc's Tunbridge Wells town centre restaurant.

Last month's shutdown, after almost five years, followed close on the heels of the failure of the group's Manchester branch.

Group managing director John Lederer told the Kent and Sussex Courier: "These restaurants have been trading unprofitably for some time and, given the present economic climate, we have decided to concentrate our efforts on our successful restaurants."

He said management staff would be relocated to other branches, including a new brasserie opening in Portsmouth next month.

The 100-cover Tunbridge Wells site, at the bottom of Lime Hill Road, near the Millennium Clock, was one of a chain of brasseries launched on the back of Blanc's renowned Manoir aux Quat' Saisons restaurant near Oxford.

Offering customers cheaper, more straightforward meals and French-style fixed price menus, the original Le Petit Blanc restaurants were taken over by Loch Fyne seafood restaurants in 2003 and, three years later, changed hands again in a management buy-out, re-launching as Brasserie Blanc.

Fellow restaurateur Renzo Meda, who opened his Italian restaurant Palio in Grosvenor Road two years ago, said he thought high rent was an important factor in the closure of the Tunbridge Wells outlet.

"I think the big chains often jumped in when the going was good and didn't worry too much about high rents because the money was coming in. That had a knock-on effect in keeping rents high, and now the good times have come to an end, everybody suffers."

He added: "I am sorry to see Brasserie Blanc disappear, because we need a thriving restaurant scene and it is bad news for us all when a local venture fails.

"If landlords were prepared to review rent levels, it would be a big help for everyone in these hard times."

The leasehold restaurant site is on the market for £75,000 through Fleurets Southern of Hove, East Sussex.

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