Cork's acclaimed food industry was dealt another blow this week with the news that the Michelin-starred restaurant, Mews, has closed.
The Baltimore restaurant opened in 2015 and earned a Michelin star in 2018, retaining it last year.
Its closure was announced on social media this week.
It is the fourth West Cork restaurant to shut since New Year's Eve, following Richy's and Deasy's, both in Clonakilty, and Arundel's By the Pier in Ahakista.
Mews was set up in 2015 by Robert Collender, Luke Matthews and James Ellis. Mr Collender was the only one of the three still actively involved. It was known for its tasting menu which, priced at €95, took three hours to finish.
Head chef, Ahmed Dede, had also worked at Chapter One in Dublin and is reported to be considering opening his own restaurant in West Cork.
In addition to winning and retaining a Michelin star in 2018 and 2019, the restaurant also won the best chef and best restaurant prizes at the Restaurant Association of Ireland awards in 2018.
The restaurant had closed at the end of last summer for a winter break. Mr Collender took to social media to confirm that it would not be reopening in 2020.
In a lengthy statement, he thanked customers for their support over the years, describing the restaurant's success as "an extraordinary journey" from its early days as a pop-up in 2015.
"Our uncompromising approach from the start — using only ingredients sourced direct from local farmers, market gardeners, fishermen and foragers — made an immediate and somewhat unexpected impact," he said.
"The team’s drive towards a star, and the fulfilment of reaching that target in October 2018, was the greatest pleasure of my working life so far.
While a Michelin star may seem a somewhat arbitrary goal, it is not one which is easily attained. I will forever remember the collective effort that our staff put in during that period. To say that it was beyond the call of duty does not nearly do it justice.
Mr Collender has previously been critical of the Government's decision to reintroduce the 13.5% VAT rate for restaurants, while he has also spoken about the difficulties of a short high season for trading in West Cork: "Our resources, however, have always been very tight, and, while our collective effort and sacrifice made up for any shortfall, it is clearly unsustainable in the long-term. I have endeavoured in the past year to reposition the business for the future but it became clear that our project here had run out of steam."
It is the latest in a series of disappointing closures for the food industry.
A Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) spokesman claimed that eight restaurants have already closed since the start of the year, including the four in Cork.
Adrian Cummins, CEO of the RAI, said the closures are a growing concern. He hit out at the government for its lack of support for restaurants: "This Government seems to have lost touch with reality. The recent proposal of mandatory displaying of calories on menus is the latest in a long line of new measures that cost businesses money. The Government continue to implement new legislation with no thought regarding the consequences for small businesses that face closure due to spiralling costs."
Other issues such as insurance and local authority rates, minimum wage increases, VAT increase and sandwich board licence fees are all adding to costs for businesses, he continued: "Ireland is starting to become no country for small independent business. It lacks supports for small businesses."