MY BUSINESS HEARTBREAK

CLOSED!. . . . Derry businessman Peter McKenzie pulls the shutters down on his Bishop Street premises for the last time yesterday. 2511JM03
CLOSED!. . . . Derry businessman Peter McKenzie pulls the shutters down on his Bishop Street premises for the last time yesterday. 2511JM03

A Derry businessman who’s traded in the city centre for more than 30 years says it’s likely he will go bankrupt in the next few weeks because of the economic downturn.

Peter Mackenzie, who for years owned the Bookworm Community Bookshop and later Cafe Artisan at Bishop Street, says the global recession has “hit Derry very hard”.

“At the minute, Derry is in a very bad state economically,” he told the ‘Journal’. “The economic resurgence we keep hearing some people talk about is, as far as I’m concerned, a mirage.

“It now looks certain that I will be going bankrupt in the next couple of weeks. I have all but given up hope on the possibility that the Culture Company, which is currently based in the Waterside, will lease the building [at Bishop Street] as their new centre in the heart of the city.

“It looks likely that the building will be bought for buttons as the government valuers from Belfast have valued it at less than 20% of its value in 2007.

“So much for the great economic prosperity that the City of Culture 2013 will bring.”

Mr. Mackenzie, who closed his city centre cafe at the end of the summer, has also accused those organisations tasked with transforming Derry’s economic fortunes of “not doing an awful lot for businesses operating in the city centre”.

“As far as I can see it, organisations such as Ilex seem fixated by the development of the Ebrington site. They don’t seem to appreciate the fact that the true heart of Derry - whether you’re talking about its culture, its history or its heritage - is in its city centre. Despite this, all we are bombarded with is talk about Ebrington.”

Mr. Mackenzie says that losing his business after 30 years is “heartbreaking”.

“But it’s not in my character to lie down,” he added. “I will be managing Cafe Bloom at the Verbal Arts Centre and I hope that, by revitalising the cafe, I can breathe new life into the centre itself.

“There is even a glimmer of hope that I may be able to start the renaissance of Bookworm - albeit in a limited way. I may be back at square one and trying to start again but I’m going to give it one more throw of the dice.”