By Caroline Wilson

CHARLES Rennie Mackintosh enthusiasts world-wide are being urged to help save the architect's last surviving tearoom from permanent closure.

Caitlin Divers, Operations Manager at The Mackintosh at the Willow on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street said it is unclear at this stage if the tearooms will be able to re-open due to heavy financial losses incurred after major fires in the area and now the pandemic lockdown.

The tearooms recently underwent a £10million restoration adding a shop and exhibition space and were re-opened two years ago by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.

Ms Divers said government support has allowed the cafe to furlough all 50 staff but says the financial challenges of maintaining a heritage building and supporting wages may prove too difficult.

A crowdfunder has been launched to help the businesses stay afloat and the managers are hoping that the public will get behind it to ensure another Mackintosh building is not under threat after the twin fires at Glasgow School of Art.

She said: "We didn't really feel as if we had any choice.

"Even with the government support we need income and we need it quickly.

"It's a Glasgow institution and we've gone through a lot to get it restored..

"The situation is that we don't know if we will be able to re-open.

"We were really on the right track. We had suffered a bit in the first year we re-opened due to the fire on Sauchiehall Street so that set the business back a year.

"We had worked really hard to get us back in a good position. Our bookings were up, we had a lot of travel trade booked in - people from all the world were booked in to come and enjoy the experience.

"We've gone straight from low season to nothing at all.

"This is the only surviving Mackintosh tearoom that's left. It's the hub of Mackintosh in the city centre.

"Glasgow can't afford to lose any more of its Mackintosh buildings. It's a huge part of Scotland's heritage and we really feel it needs to be protected.

"We do a lot of work in the community, we bring in schools and we share the store of Scotland's heritage, not just about Mackintosh but Kate Cranston, who was recognised on the £20 bank note.

"We are a social enterprise and the staff are really at the core of what we do. "We employ over 50 staff peak season and we don't want to lost anyone."

The Willow is regarded as Mackintosh's most complete interior design.

The tearooms first opened in Glasgow over 100 years ago, after The Willow Tea Rooms Trust threw years of hard work into revamping the Mackintosh building after it fell into a state of disrepair in the late 1800s.

They were run by Kate Cranston, one of Scotland’s earliest female entrepreneurs. Her tearooms were the first places women socialised outside of the home without male company, laying the groundwork for a cultural shift.