A well-established Carlisle restaurant has announced it has now closed.

The owner of Pompeii Steakhouse, on Abbey Street, has said a combination of fears over staff safety, problems with an insurance policy, ongoing rent demands and fewer paying customers as a result of social distancing measures meant the business was no longer viable.

The announcement comes after a number of city retailers decided to call it a day in the wake of the coronavirus.

Julie Simpson, from the steakhouse, said the decision has been difficult.

"We built the restaurant from scratch nine years ago, but we feel we’ve been forced into it," she claimed.

A cafe run by her partner Paul Higgins – Gone to the Dogs, on Corporation Road – has also announced it will not reopen.

Julie said: “Paul and I did research and realised that indoor spaces where people linger round a table is considered incredibly high risk of catching the virus.

“This hasn’t changed and Pompeii is a small space and airflow is limited – we just had one window that opened, apart from having the doors open permanently.

“Being a steakstone (hot stone) restaurant we had ventilation fitted to clear the air from the restaurant, but that vents into the kitchen.

“Not long after we first opened, a guest poured pepper onto one of our hot stones. Not only were all the other guests soon coughing, the kitchen staff had a concentrated dose.

“We took the pepper pots off the tables after that. You can’t do that with a virus."

She continued: “Financially we couldn’t afford to open.

“The consensus across the board was it could take two years for hospitality to recover.

“There is a #NationalTimeOut campaign backed by some of the largest hospitality chief executives, basically asking for a rent freeze.

"There are ideas of creating possible flexible rent deals.”

Julie said: “We had ‘Business Interruption Insurance’ which had a clause that covers ‘notifiable illness’ within 25 miles.

“The insurance company has refused our claim because there has been no physical damage to the property.”

She said this was a nationwide issue facing businesses.