A prominient Derry businessman has blamed high rates, along with the recession, for the closure of his popular city centre restaurant.

John McAllister, owner of Halo Pantry and Grill on Market Street, will close his doors on New Year’s Eve after four years in business.

Speaking exclusively to the Journal he said: “The rates on the building are very extreme in the present climate.

“I think the council could be offering city centre businesses more of a chance by lowering them.”

The recession is also taking its toll, he explained: “People have less money to spend. As well as coming less often, when customers came in they also spend less, maybe opting for the house wines rather than a more expensive bottle.”

Mr McAllister said that restaurants offering big discounts have also had an impact: “We had to offer discounts to keep up with other local restaurants but in the end we were just about breaking even.”

As a result of the closure, over 30 staff will lose their jobs.

However John said: “Most members of the team have been re-employed. I gave them plenty of notice of the closure and thankfully, they have all been able to find work.”

John himself intends to regroup before maybe starting out again.

In the meantime, he finished: “It’s a tough climate out there for everyone, not just the restaurant sector. We are not the only ones struggling.”

Yesterday the restaurant’s Facebook page was inundated with messages of support from customers saddened by the closure.