Edinburgh restaurateur announces closure of Maison Bleue Morningside restaurant and blames Brexit and Covid impact

An Edinburgh restaurateur has blamed Brexit and lockdown struggles for the “heart-breaking” decision to permanently shut a popular Morningside restaurant.

Maison Bleue in Morningside, which has been open for the past five years, has now closed, with staffing shortages cited as a key reason for the decision.

Despite seeing “great success” and “high demand”, Dean Gassabi, 65, who runs Maison Bleue in Edinburgh on Victoria Street as well as the Morningside site with his daughter Layla, 40, has been forced to dispose of the second establishment.

The restaurant was previously closed on a temporary basis for six weeks due to staffing issues, despite Mr Gassabi saying it had been “packed”.

Dean and Layla Gassabi have had to close their restaurant, Maison Bleue Le Bistrot on Morningside Road in 'heartbreaking' decision made as a result of Brexit and lockdown impact.

A report published by Caterer.com last month revealed more than 90,000 workers had left the UK’s hospitality sector over the past year.

Mr Gassabi said: “My daughter and I work in the business and it’s absolutely breaking our hearts to dispose of it.”

“Unfortunately we just don’t have the chefs, so all our staff have now been moved to Victoria Street.

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“We worried that this would happen after Brexit. When the pandemic came, it just aggravated the whole thing and we just found ourselves in this situation.

“During lockdown, a lot of European staff went home and they couldn’t come back either because of Brexit because they didn’t have their visas or because the country was closed due to lockdown.

“The sad thing about this is that the demand has been high and the restaurant has been a great success, but we just can’t continue like this.”

Mr Gassabi said even their suppliers, who he stressed he was fighting with to keep prices low, were facing similar staffing problems.

This is adding to their problems as food supplies are coming in at 2pm for lunchtime service, which begins at midday.

Mr Gassabi noted chefs are being trained in the UK. However, he said it took at least two years for someone to receive appropriate training.

“Someone who has started as a KP [kitchen porter] two or three years ago are now applying for head chefs,” he said.

"That shows you where we are in the industry and that needs to be reviewed.

“To be a head chef in my day, you had to be a chef for ten years to be one.

“Everything is also now more expensive such as supplies and wages as a result of Brexit and that’s going to transfer to the customers.”

Mr Gassabi added: “When they see a steak is selling at £70, do you think they are going to buy that?” I’m not prepared to lower our standards. I am not prepared to put someone on who can’t cook or serve or inflate our prices.”

The Maison Bleue owner said his 25-year-old Victoria Street restaurant has been “saved” as a result of the Spaces for People scheme enabling him to have a terrace to host guests.

The Edinburgh restaurateur recently received confirmation the terrace will now remain in place until December 31, which he said would be a “godsend” to his business.

However, Mr Gassabi is calling for the UK Government to offer work visas to European hospitality employees to ensure they are able to continue working.

“At the moment, the hospitality industry doesn’t allow you to have a decent life,” he said.

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