Sadness as By Appointment in Norwich closes
Over a quarter-century in Norwich, By Appointment has played host to Hollywood actors, footballers and television stars.
The restaurant and hotel's 15th century buildings have been used as a film set, and the business has won national awards for its 'utterly enjoyable mild eccentricity'. But from the end of July, the St George's Street 'restaurant with rooms' will be no more. The Grade II-listed hotel will close to guests on July 28, before being converted into apartments, following the lead of the restaurant which has already shut.
Owner Robert Culyer described his 25 years at the helm as 'the most amazing journey'. 'It is sad after all this time, and all these customers, that 13 staff have been made redundant,' he said.
'We have customers who have been coming to us for 20 years, and we have been getting lots of cards and messages from them.'
He said he thought By Appointment would be missed in the city, but restrictive small business regulations and staffing problems were behind the decision he took in February.
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He said: 'The fact we have lasted 25 years is testament to what people thought of us. A lot of people have said we were a Norwich institution.'
Mr Culyer took sole control when he bought out his business partner four years ago, but felt he could not sell on the business as a going concern.
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'It had got to the stage where I wasn't looking forward to coming into work in the morning,' he said. 'We are getting pushed around by the government – we have levies on the bins, levies on the power. People have no idea of the costs behind the scenes.'
Mr Culyer, right, said that 13 staff – some of whom had been with the business for 18 years – had been made redundant by the move, though many were part-time and some had already been found new roles.
Work will begin in September to convert the accommodation into three two-bedroom apartments and a two-bedroom house, which is expected to be completed by Christmas.
Mr Culyer admitted new independent restaurants faced a struggle. He said: 'I think it will get to the stage where chain restaurants will take over the market. We are already seeing it.'
When the business closes for the last time on July 28, Mr Culyer will turn his attention to his property portfolio which includes houses in London and the Mediterranean.
The closure is the second recent blow to Norwich's fine dining industry, after the Elm Hill Brasserie closed at the end of last month.
An auction will be held on August 4, where antiques, fittings and furniture from By Appointment will go on sale.
Do you have story about a Norwich restaurant? Contact reporter Mark Shields on 01603 772423 or email firstname.lastname@example.org