City centre independent falls victim to influx of big chain restaurants - and the Cowgate effect

Topo Gigio'sTopo Gigio's
Topo Gigio's
Peterborough's eating out scene has suffered a blow with the loss of one the city centre's best known restaurants.

Topo Gigio’s in Cowgate - which has been associated with the city centre in its many incarnations for 30 years - closed its doors for the last time during the Christmas period.

Mick Guarnaccia, who reopened the Italian eaterie almost four years ago, had been looking to move on for some time, and the business’ lease had been available since early last year.

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“Running an independent restaurant is a very hands-on business and people expect you to be there every time they dine. You work long, unsociable hours every day of the week and it takes its toll,” said Mick, who had previously owned Avellino’s in Broadway at the turn of the century, another restaurant in Spalding and a coffee and pizza cafe in Bridge Street.

“But at the end of the day I had no choice. On the financial side of things I could not keep it up.

“The city centre has grown since I opened, attracting new competition, and in the last six months alone we have had some huge restaurants (Turtle Bay, Middleton’s and The Queen’s Head) open up.

“The chains come for a reason and have staying power. When the city gets a university and city centre living really takes off it will be great.

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“But I cannot wait that long. As an independent I could not sustain what we were losing. It is sad to see it closed, and I hope someone takes it on and keeps it as a restaurant.

“But, as I know, the lack of footfall in Cowgate does not help. It looks pretty but you can see for yourself how many ‘To Let’ signs there are - probably about eight at the moment. And I think it scares people off when they see so many empty places.”

A spokesman for commercial agents Savills confirmed the property was still on the market and there had been some good, initial interest. It is being advertised with a rent of £25,000 a year with vacant possession.