Library Restaurant in Norwich is put up for sale as long-time owners take a step back
PUBLISHED: 12:40 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:19 18 June 2018
The founders of one of Norwich's best-known restaurants have put the business up for sale as they prepare to bow out of the industry.
Jayne and Nigel Raffles have announced they are seeking a buyer for The Library Restaurant, bringing to an end 27 years of running eateries in the city.
However, they insist the venue on Guildhall Hill will remain open and operating until a buyer can be found.
Mrs Raffles said: “While the restaurants have given us many opportunities and cherished customers, it’s now time we explore the next chapter in our careers.
“We would like to thank our diners and our restaurant team who have become part of our extended family for the amazing memories over the past years.”
The couple opened St Benedict’s Grill when they moved to Norwich in 1991, later taking on Pinocchio’s next door on St Benedict’s Street, Pulse cafe bar and then The Library.
Mrs Raffles said she was now looking for a new opportunity, while her husband will become a private chef at a country house on the Norfolk-Suffolk border.
Over the years, both have been heavily involved in initiatives to promote the industry and the wider city.
Mr Raffles has mentored new talent coming into the restaurant business, forging links with City College Norwich’s catering school, while the couples’ businesses have offered takeover days to allow students to train in a live environment.
Mrs Raffles has served as a chairman of the Norwich Lanes and a director of Norwich’s Business Improvement District. She is also a former chairman of business networking group Breakaway and a trustee of charity Keeping Abreast.
The pair had been “honoured” by the support they had received from staff, customers, and businesses of the Norwich Lanes, said Mrs Raffles.
They have two children, Angus and Joshua, who are both following their parents into the restaurant and hotel sector.
Mrs Raffles added: “We will be sad to say goodbye to The Library and we hope the building will remain a focal point of the city and continue to be somewhere the public can enjoy as part of its rich history, which is so important to preserve for future generations.”
The Library can seat up to 150 diners, including 85 in its main dining area, and includes a bar in the original reading room, a mezzanine balcony, two cellars, a courtyard and two function rooms.
The company behind the business went into liquidation in September but the restaurant kept running after it was taken over a new entity set up by Mr and Mrs Raffles.
The restaurant industry has experienced a difficult year, with many mid-market chains announcing closure programmes as falling consumer confidence and rising business costs have taken their toll.
The Library Restaurant is in Norwich’s former subscription library, founded in 1886, when the subscription fee was £1 for ladies over 18 and £2 for men.
But on August 1 1898, disaster struck, when a fire which started at Hurn’s ropemaking business spread to the library. Some 60,000 volumes, many rare and valuable were lost to the flames, including the important Norton collection of foreign dictionaries.
The library reopened just a year later at a cost of £1,719.
The modern restaurant retains many nods to the building’s original use, including wooden floors, marble tables, and a dining area lined by tall bookcases.
Over the years, it has hosted events including weddings, civic receptions, murder mystery evenings, Norwich Fashion Week, and photography shoots.