The Co-Operative has confirmed that it intends to close its food store on Larne’s Circular Road, putting at least 26 jobs at risk.
Following years of rumours locally that the struggling supermarket was set to shut, the retailer has announced plans to pull the shutters down for good, blaming the decision on poor sales.
But the company has said it will endeavour to save as many of the 10 full-time and 16 part-time jobs as possible, with the potential for some staff to be redeployed to other stores.
And in another blow for the town, the move also leaves the future of West End Post Office in doubt, as the branch occupies part of the supermarket premises.
A Co-Op spokesman told the Times that post office services will continue to be provided at Linn Road Co-op.
However, Post Office Ltd said it was unaware of the closure plan.
Co-Op also intends to transfer the liquor licence from the Circular Road store to its Linn Road outlet.
The spokesman said the decision to close the store was taken “with the greatest reluctance”.
He added: “It is due to the store’s poor trading performance, and is not, in any way, a reflection on the commitment and hard work of the store team.
“All staff have been informed of the situation, and every effort will be made to redeploy as many of them as possible, or to help them find alternative employment.”
The closure of the store is subject to the transfer of the liquor licence, which will take place at a hearing next month.
The Co-Op said it does not yet have a firm date for the closure of the branch, but at Monday’s meeting of Larne Council’s environment committee, chief executive Geraldine McGahey said she understood the store would shut at the end of February.
The council was asked to confirm it had no objection to Co-Op’s application for a liquor licence at the Linn Road store. Alderman Winston Fulton expressed reservations about the licence transfer, which would allow the Linn Road branch to sell alcohol until 11pm.
He said: “I have to object strongly to this. The store is in a residential area and is right beside the Linn Glen.”
But Mrs McGahey informed the member that it was not within the council’s remit to comment on the suitability of the application.
Cllr Martin Wilson had concerns about the future of the Co-Op premises.
He added: “What way are they going to leave the building? Will it be a blight on the town? I would like assurances that Co-Op will do everything in its power to ensure the building doesn’t fall into disrepair.”
In the past, Tesco expressed an interest in acquiring the Co-Op site.