Couple forced to close restaurant in historic Norwich building ‘with heavy hearts’

PUBLISHED: 07:19 26 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:35 26 July 2019

Jayne Raffles. Pic: Archant

Jayne Raffles. Pic: Archant

The owners of the Library restaurant are having to close down on Saturday after the sale of the business fell through for the third time.

Nigel Raffles in the kitchen at The Library Restaurant. Photo: Simon Finlay Photography.Nigel Raffles in the kitchen at The Library Restaurant. Photo: Simon Finlay Photography.

Jayne and Nigel Raffles, who have run restaurants in the city for nearly 30 years, have also lost a small fortune in that they put up the business for sale originally for £750,000 - but now only hope to get £15,000-£20,000.

The couplle, who have run the Library on Guildhall Hill since 2006, have been trying to sell the business for two and a half years. But after the latest buyers just pulled out, and having run down staff to a minimum because of the sale, they've been forced to shut down 'with heavy hearts.'

But the nightmare continues for the couple, who lease the building from Norwich City Council, as they face paying the rent of several thousand a month as well as business rates even though it's standing empty. "There have been a lot of tears," said Mrs Raffles, who ran the front of house with her husband, a chef. "Norwich has a lot of restaurants and we can't compete; we can't fund a £1.8m refit of the building and people expect that kind of finish.

"That's why smaller restaurants are successful, small places doing sharing platters, they have less overheads, less outgoings. Also, the whole restaurant world has changed dramatically, the middle food market like ours, along with Giraffe and Jamie's, has been hit. It's so tough, you work for seven weeks without a day off, no holiday, we just haven't had a life."

Nigel and Jayne Raffles, pictured at the Library Restaurant in happier  times. Pic: SIMON FINLAYNigel and Jayne Raffles, pictured at the Library Restaurant in happier times. Pic: SIMON FINLAY

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The couple are highly experienced restaurateurs; they opened St Benedicts Grill in 1991, then Pinocchio's, the Pulse cafe bar and then the Library, housed in a magnificent venue, the UK's first subscription library which was built in 1886. All the other restaurants have been sold on and are under different management.

"The last buyers dropped out right at the last moment which has floored us completely, the whole Library team has waited and stuck with us through thick and thin but have now quite rightly found new employment. After 28 years of running restaurants in Norwich we close with a heavy heart. "We would like to thank our team at The Library and all the wonderful customers. We'll miss the regulars the most, those people who've come in for a salad or a burger."

The Library Restaurant, Norwich. Pic: Archant.The Library Restaurant, Norwich. Pic: Archant.

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Mrs Raffles, who served as a chairman of the Norwich Lanes, director of Norwich's Business Improvement District (BID) as well as a trustee of the Keeping Abreast charity, announced earlier this year that she was starting a new business, the Egg Consultancy Group, advising the restaurant/cafe/bar trade and Mr Raffles is doing some private chef work.

The Library will close after the last service on Saturday night.

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