A Co Armagh restaurant which provided employment and training for young people with special needs has closed its doors.
Covid-19 has been blamed for the demise of the One-Eighty Restaurant at Mandeville Street in Portadown.
It is now nine years since the enterprise opened and numerous young people have benefitted from learning and job opportunities during that time.
But the restaurant broke the news today (Wednesday) on social media, voicing “deepest regret and sadness”.
It said: “Since the social enterprise was established in 2011, we have been overwhelmed with the sustained and dedicated support we have received from customers, staff, trainees and partners and we thank each individual for their contribution to its success over the years.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted the hospitality industry and having conducted an extensive review of business operations, in line with directive from the Northern Ireland Executive on social distancing regulations, it has been determined that closure of the restaurant is unavoidable.
“Our priority at present is our staff and trainees and our commitment to supporting them through this difficult time.
“We would like to express our gratitude to staff who have set many young people with additional support needs on a pathway to employment and independence.
“We are working closely with our partners to assist trainees in finding suitable alternative placement opportunities.”
The loss of the restaurant has been deeply felt with people greeting the news with great sadness.
One wrote: “Absolutely gutted. I wish all staff and trainees the very best in the future and a great big thank you for everything you have done.”
Another said: “Very sorry to hear this. It was a valuable enterprise for everyone involved. Best wishes to everyone in whatever the future holds for you all.”
A former unionist councillor on Armagh City and District Council, Mavis Eagle was also upset to learn of the restaurant’s demise.
She remarked: “Really sorry to hear this news. My sister Shirley Agnew was the inspiration behind this as it was in 2011, an amazing project, it’s a sad day for all the young people and the 180 staff.”