Cuba St's Le Metropolitain to close

Closing: Central city French bistro Le Metropolitain.
Closing: Central city French bistro Le Metropolitain.

Cuba Street restaurant Le Metropolitain will close next week as its owners can not afford a rent hike - though the building's co-owner says it is a fair increase.

The central city French bistro was opened about five years ago by couple Maryline Raynal and Sebastien Jacquet.

Mrs Raynal said the landlords had notified her on September 1 that the rent would be increasing by $22,000 to $100,000 per year (without GST) - an amount that is too high for the couple to afford.

Mrs Raynal said because of the short notice and failure of any negotiations, they were forced to walk away.

''We are losing everything. We are taken by surprise with the whole thing and we haven't managed to think about all this.''

Landlord Stanley Noble could not confirm the exact amount of the rent increase but said he would never charge rent that was going to kill a business. He thought there must have been other issues at play. ''We are charging a very reasonable rent. They have got an agent looking at it now and every person that comes along thinks it's very fair.''

Mr Noble had co-owned the building for 20 years. He said the couple's lease expired tomorrow and they had not made any moves to renew it before being informed of the increase. He said there had been room for negotiation.

Mrs Raynal was unsure whether they would move Le Metropolitain elsewhere or if it would be sold. She said for now at least they were losing everything. ''It's very difficult, it's heartbreaking. The money factor is annoying but the emotional factor is much greater to handle.''

Food critic David Burton reviewed Le Metropolitain several times and said he always enjoyed the food there. The restaurant was always very popular and the owners were very warm-hearted people. ''It really filled a much needed hole for a quality French bistro and I'm very sad to see it go. I thought they had a lot of integrity and the food was always good quality.''

Restaurants often had a slim profit margin and a rent increase could wipe that out, Restaurant Association national president Mike Egan said. ''Often landlords have been quite happy to keep long-term tenants and not put up rents but it depends on what the lease says. Landlords are just trying to maximise their investment and the market will soon decide.''

Mr Egan said it was important to establish a lease that worked for both sides. He said Le Metropolitain's location was popular but the numbers had to make sense for another business to open there successfully.

Le Metropolitain's last day will be next Friday.

Contact Shabnam Dastgheib
Twitter: @shab_d

The Dominion Post