Between laughter and whispers, the atmosphere was special on Wednesday afternoon at Le Royal, where the public real estate auction of the Îlot gastronomique was taking place.
About forty people were gathered in one of the lounges of the hotel Le Royal, where the notary office of Pierre Metzler organised the auction. "Does anyone have a bid?” the auctioneer asked the assembly at around 3.20 pm.
The silence reigned, and even became heavy. "I'm expecting a bid," Metzler who was leading the auction said. He then wandered among the rows of participants, or, rather, spectators.
"We're just here to watch," retorted a lady sitting in the second row. As the minutes passed, the atmosphere in this game of silence became more and more oppressive.
"Who has money?” said the adjudicator with a smile at 3.30 pm. A few laughs were heard, but for Metzler, there was still no buyer on the horizon.
At 3.47pm, the notary confirmed that no bid had been made. "The family has decided to cancel the sale in the absence of a bid," he told the assembly. The participants then started to stand up and leave the premises.
Communication through lawyers
"I am not disappointed. I think that the Nilles family, who own the premises, wants to get rid of something that is very complicated to maintain, and they are not bringing the infrastructure up to standard,” confided Verena Duhr, who rents a space in the Îlot Gastronomique with her husband, the chef Thierry Duhr.
In their restaurant, Le Bouquet Garni, infrastructure problems are added to those of recruitment and soaring costs. They include a lack of hot water, but also the absence of a grill to prevent ill-intentioned people from damaging the passageway under the restaurant. There is no shortage of worries, and the couple are bound by a "long-term" lease agreement with owner Mado Funck.
Every time we ask the landlord to fix something, it's very complicated, and it goes through exchanges between lawyers
"Every time we ask the landlord to fix something, it's very complicated, and it goes through exchanges between lawyers," she complains. Currently, only three of the nine cells in the complex are occupied.
For her part, Tanja de Jager emphasised the complexity of the situation: in addition to the lack of compliance with the standards in force, any request for modification must go through the Service des sites et monuments nationaux. This point was made in his introduction by Metzler, who reminded the assembly that the building is listed and that it must be occupied for commercial activities.
The door remains open
One of the walls of the Îlot Gastronomique displays a piece of Luxembourg's history, with the famous motto "Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sinn" [We want to remain what we are]. But the owner of Dipso and her neighbour Hilary Porteous of the restaurant Am Tiirmschen would prefer "Mir wëlle bleiwe wou mir sinn” [We want to remain where we are]. And that would require an owner willing to put their hand in their wallet.
The next logical step is for the City of Luxembourg to buy the Îlot gastronomique,
"In my view, the next logical step is for the City of Luxembourg to buy the Îlot gastronomique," says Tanja de Jager. The end of the public sale does not mean the end of the operation, as a buyer can still apply to the notary. Any takers?
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.