Ousted Divis Mountain coffee shop owners left with bitter taste
The owners of a coffee shop on Divis Mountain have hit out at the National Trust after they were told to leave just days before Christmas.
The trust has decided to run the Divis Coffee Barn itself but customers are fighting back with a petition to keep the shop in the hands of local couple Paul and Liza Murphy.
The Barn, which claims to be Ireland's highest coffee shop at 1,025ft, was opened in 2014.
Paul and Liza acted as franchisees with the National Trust.
The restaurant, serving tea, coffee and scones, became popular with walkers taking a break from their hike up the mountain or those enjoying the view.
On December 21, the National Trust told the couple that they would have to shut that afternoon as they had decided that it would be running the coffee shop from that point onwards.
Paul and Liza lost the business that they had built up for over a year and their four staff lost their jobs in the week before Christmas.
The couple said they were "disappointed, shocked and extremely sad" and added: "It was devastating to hear this news just days before Christmas.
"We are shocked they have made this decision as we have made a huge effort to provide a welcoming service."
Manager Margaret Muir said: "I am devastated about the National Trust decision to close Divis Coffee Barn. To lose your job four days before Christmas is bad but to have to phone your staff and tell them is heartbreaking."
Many friends and customers have reacted angrily to the news and almost 1,000 people have signed a petition urging the trust to reconsider its decision.
Sharon Openshaw who started the campaign said: "Divis Coffee Barn is a small cafe run by Margaret who puts her heart and soul into it. It is a utter disgrace that the National Trust want to take it over. Margaret has built this place up and now you want the rewards. We will boycott this place from now on."
A spokesman for the National Trust said: "The Coffee Barn at Divis had reached the end of its lease and after careful consideration a decision was taken not to renew that lease.
"We understand that some visitors will be disappointed and we thank the previous operators for their work over the past year.
"We look forward to providing updates for our visitors over the coming weeks and in the meantime there will continue to be tea and coffee facilities inside the barn."