CLOSURES in the hospitality industry do not come more high profile than the renowned Glasgow restaurant which ceased trading at the weekend, and it has bolstered calls for a grand plan to revive the fortunes of Scotland’s biggest, but fading, city.

Followers of Glasgow’s dining-out scene were stunned to learn on Sunday that one of Scotland’s most revered chefs, Brian Maule, had closed the doors on his West Regent Street restaurant for the final time.

Brian Maule at Le Chardon d’Or had been a major draw since the Ayrshire-born chef, who learned his craft in France and worked for the famous Roux brothers, returned to Scotland to open the restaurant in 2001, with the venue going on to secure an array of awards for its culinary excellence.

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But in a statement on Saturday evening, the restaurant declared: “It is with much sadness that tonight was our last night of Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or.”

Expanding on the reasons for the closure, the statement detailed a litany of challenges that the restaurant – in common with the wider hospitality industry – has faced since the pandemic struck in 2020. It amounted to a tidal wave of pressure so overwhelming that it seems miraculous the restaurant remained open as long as it did.

The fall-out from lockdowns and Covid-related restrictions was compounded by soaring food and energy costs, a protracted cost of living crisis, and the lingering effect of people continuing to work from home, with the last being singled out by the restaurant for weighing especially heavily on trade.

A message from the restaurant’s board stated: “At the outset, in 2001, and for the next 20 years, Chardon lay in a busy, thriving business district. Covid had changed all that. Many of the surrounding businesses are now closed or up for sale or let and those still open are mainly occupied on a part-time basis. This has had the two-fold impact of a reduction in restaurant business and a depression in property values.

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“Desperately, sadly, with all this coming together, the inescapable conclusion for Brian Maule and the team is that the Chardon business in West Regent Street will have to close. It’s a sad loss for the city.”

The statement underlined the deep disappointment that Mr Maule felt over the implications for the restaurant’s staff, suppliers, and customers. But this story is about more than the failure of this single restaurant, painful though it is for everyone involved.

As the statement from the Chardon d’Or board emphasised, this hugely popular restaurant has been a high-profile victim of the seismic impact of Covid, with the reverberations of the pandemic continuing to be felt all across Glasgow city centre. It is abundantly clear that while other major cities, both elsewhere in the UK and around Europe, are putting Covid behind them, Glasgow is continuing to toil.

There has rightly been controversy in recent days over plans by First Bus to drop late-night services in the city centre, given the impact this may have on people who rely upon them.

But underlying the proposal is the simple fact that central Glasgow is no longer as busy as it once was, especially in the evenings, and as such fewer people are now travelling by bus late in the evening.

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Talk to people in the pub trade and they will tell you how trading patterns have changed since Covid, and how many people, especially those who belong to the older demographic, now come out earlier in the day because they cannot be sure how they will get home. There are fewer taxis operating in the city after many drivers exited the industry for roles in other industries when Covid struck.

Added to this is the ongoing cost of living crisis, with rampant inflation and rising interest rates meaning people just do not have as much spare cash in their pockets as they used to, meaning less disposable income for spending in bars and restaurants.

There is more to Glasgow’s woes, though. As someone who has lived and worked in the city for nearly five decades, it strikes me that Glasgow’s current physical state is as poor as it has been since the early 1980s. Major streets that were once jewels in the city’s crown are filthy and inhospitable, blighted by boarded-up shop units and pubs and intimidating beyond a certain time at night.

The physical condition of the city was the focus of renewed debate on social media at the weekend, after a tweet by foreign affairs journalist, and Glaswegian, David Pratt lamenting its current state led to discussion over the reasons for its decline. And, of course, its demise is not down to one factor alone. Austerity, Covid, working from home, structural change in the retail sector and, most recently, the cost of living crisis have all posed deep challenges to the city.

But the fact that we can trace the reasons for Glasgow’s decline is of no comfort to Brian Maule.

In recent months, there has been welcome news of major investment coming to the city, from plans to rebuild St Enoch Centre to the progress made by Chris Stewart Group’s Love Loan hotel, office, and residential development close to George Square. Investment is being made in new office blocks along the Broomielaw, and in built-to-rent apartments, and there is excitement around the proposals from Land Securities to knock down Buchanan Galleries and replace it with a mixed-used development, in a bid to reduce the city’s reliance on retail and persuade more people to live in the centre.

Alan Tomkins, the veteran Glasgow restaurateur, expressed his faith in the future of the city’s hospitality scene to The Herald earlier this year, when he declared there was an opportunity for hospitality to be supported as a key driver of the economy.

And it is certainly fair to say that the financial services district is in decent shape, with major new buildings under construction.

However, the major projects on the stocks will take years to come to fruition, and it is clear that action of a more urgent kind is needed to help Glasgow.

In its statement, Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or highlighted the “lack of support for the hospitality sector” among the reasons behind the decision to close, with its board going on to cite the impact of business rates relief, which had helped the hospitality trade so much in the pandemic, coming to an end.

Having supported the hospitality industry extensively during the pandemic, with grants provided alongside rates relief, the prospect of the Scottish Government providing further financial support for the sector would appear to be unlikely, especially with the public finances under so much pressure.

Calls from the retail sector in Scotland for ministers to match the relief currently being provided to its counterpart in England have fallen on deaf ears, albeit the rates system in Scotland does provide significant relief for small businesses north of the Border.

The reality is, however, that if we are to avoid the loss of further businesses of the calibre of Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or, a vision on a grander scale is needed, one that encompasses thinking that goes far beyond the sticking plaster of grants and rates relief.

The city is at a crossroads, and it is time for the powers that be to seize the initiative with a grand vision that we can all get behind.