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Doors close temporarily as thaw lands café in troubled waters

A POPULAR café at one of the world's oldest independent department stores has closed for the first time in over 30 years because of a water crisis brought on by the thaw.

Declan Hasson, the manager of Austins in Londonderry, said the closure at the landmark five-storey building at The Diamond was a "huge setback" during one of the busiest shopping periods of the year.

While water is circulating in the store, it is unable to reach the upper floors because of a lack of pressure.

Mr Hasson said: "It's ironic because we never closed during the Troubles. It's unprecedented for us, so we can't say for sure how much we might lose or how badly it will affect us over the next few days.

"But it is a real setback, no question about it. The store is hectic with people. It is a real tradition to come here, do a big shop and then head up to the top floor to take the weight off your feet and have a good meal.

"There are 150 seats in the restaurant and to lose just one day of trade will be very bad for business."

He said he did not know how long the crisis would last so did not know what the impact would be. "I've been manager here for 33 years and I have never seen anything like it."

Austins was established in 1830.

It is five years older than Jenners of Edinburgh, 15 years older than Harrods of London and 25 years older than Macy's of New York.

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