Nardini's has been bought over for refurbishment by a consortium of three businessmen from Largs and a "Hamilton ice cream entrepreneur" (Mr Equi I believe).
The refurbishment of Nardinis has been held up (I think they wanted it completed for this summer) due to a dispute with Historic Scotland. Apparently, they wanted to knock down some listed tenements behind Nardinis to use as flats, and Historic Scotland weren't impressed by the idea.
background in the Sunday Herald
Text of other Herald article (from Google Cache)
AS the train from Glasgow rumbles steadily past the Ayrshire village of Fairlie, a young boy, no more than five or six, turns to face his mother, his tummy evidently rumbling. "Where are we going for lunch, mum?" he asks. "Nardini's," she replies with a smile. "You know, granny used to take me there when I was your age."
It is a destination that, for generations of Scots, has been a home from home. The packed steamers from the Broomielaw may have long turned to rust, but the carriages and coaches still descend on Largs in modest numbers.
For many, the Ayrshire town represents the typical seaside resort, but recent developments have given townsfolk reason to ruminate on the past, and speculate on the future.
The town's best-known attraction is closed. Once a unique and proud testament to 1930s art deco design, Nardini's Cafe stood like a beacon on the promenade.
Such was the renown of the Ayrshire enclave that dignitaries, including Margaret Thatcher and Princess Alexandria, visited down the years and, in its heyday, more than 1000 gallons of ice-cream were being sold every weekend.
In short, the history of Nardini's is not just that of a business, nor simply the tale of the one family. It is the story of Largs.
Yet, the latest chapter looks to have a downbeat ending. After seven glittering decades of success, nine months of inactivity have followed. Nardini's closed to the public on October 31 last year, its once lavish interiors now a gutted shells of ladders, plywood and buckets, although an offshoot, Nardini at the Moorings, remains open in the town, run by Robbie Nardini.
Ironically, Nardini's problems largely stemmed from what many regarded as its greatest asset – its status as a traditional family business. By the 1990s, its shareholdings were dispersed unevenly across several family members, and no-one could agree on a plan to counter the ever-increasing lure of the foreign holiday market.
The company was eventually put on the market four years ago at £3.5m, but prospective buyers were scarce and receivership soon beckoned.
A rescue plan was to come, though, in the shape of a consortium which saved Nardini's in February last year for about £1.4m. Consisting of three Largs businessmen and a Hamilton-based ice-cream entrepreneur, the group allayed concerns by announcing its intention to revive the firm and restore the building to its 1930s glory.
At first, the regeneration project was well on course. A deal was struck with McCarthy and Stone to buy land to the rear of the cafe for £1m; the finances would be ploughed into the refurbishment, while the housebuilder would erect 41 retirement flats.
Welcomed by residents and the planning authorities, it was not until the application reached Historic Scotland that progress was hindered.
The organisation noted that, in order for the flats to be built, a C-listed nineteenth-century flatted villa to the rear of Nardini's had to be demolished. It has yet to make a final decision on whether the move can be granted. Until then, the money cannot be redirected, and the refurbishment is in limbo.
For John Fox, the new principal director of Nardini's, it is a situation fraught with frustration. Originally planned for this spring, the cafe's rebirth is now set for February 2006, assuming that Historic Scotland find in its favour.
By Mr Fox's rationale, the sacrifice of the villa is for the greater good. Given the consortium's intention is to reinstate the B-listed cafe fully, it has garnered a groundswell of support among the community and business associations, most of whom acknowledge that ice-cream remains the town's biggest draw, despite other popular attractions such as Vikingar! which offers a multi-media journey through the lives of the Vikings in Scotland.
"We've had terrific support from people and we're all desperate to get the cafe refurbished, but we need Historic Scotland's decision," says Mr Fox. "It's an organisation that saves buildings, not businesses, and I welcome that. It's just a shame it does not take economics into consideration."
Though the orchestra has ceased to play, the furnishings have long been sold off, and sundaes are, for the moment at least, off the menu, Mr Fox believes the market still exists for Largs to prosper as a tourist resort.
"We want to go back to the original look of the 1930s that captures the spirit of Nardini's and Largs. That's what it became famous for, and we hope it'll be popular with local people and visitors.
"The cafe has a unique and famous name and it'll be popular with day-trippers. The days of people taking fortnight breaks are gone and the way forward is to attract people to specific events like the Viking Festival and boat races."