A CAFE occupying one of the most prominent sites in the city for the past five years is to close, but the owner has refused to blame steep rates for the decision to sell.
The 15-plus staff of So Coco at 1 High Street were given redundancy notices last weekend, and it is likely the popular restaurant, famed for its Spanish-style chocolate and churros, will close on January 20.
However the owner, the Caledonian Coffee Co Ltd, is actively seeking a new business partner and other premises, and So Coco could rise again after a period of “hibernation”.
Director Roy Dinnes said he was sad to see the business close, especially for the staff who were “a credit” to the business, and he was amazed at the social media reaction that saw more than 1200 dismayed customers post comments within 12 hours.
It was purely a commercial decision said the Forres hotelier, and a deal with the new owner of the premises is at an advanced stage. Mr Dinnes gave no details of the new owner, but it is understood to be a company that already has premises in the city centre.
Mr Dinnes’ company is retaining Inverness City Suites, the six luxury self-catering flats above So Coco, with two more at Hedgefield.
Mr Dinnes said: “People have been commenting about the rates, but that was not behind the decision to sell. It was a commercial decision, although being on the High Street the business was not as profitable as it could be.
“We have been looking for some time for other premises and a new partner. It is a great opportunity for someone with a passion for food and catering to become involved.
“It has been a great business and I put my heart and soul into it. We were fortunate that our customers responded to something that was a bit different, something that worked in terms of what we were trying to achieve.”
Mike Smith, manager of Inverness Improvement District, said he was pleased that the premises would not be lying empty for long, especially at such a prominent location, right across from the Town House.
He added: “My understanding is that So Coco received a very attractive offer and decided to sell up. Generally our city centre seems to be doing not too badly. I was speaking to a property person who said that compared with other city centres, we are doing OK, but of course we always work for more.”