Central Perk used to be a popular coffee shop in Mirdif. Image Credit: Muby Asger/XPRESS

Dubai: Central Perk at Uptown Mirdif, a café best known for its imitation of the coffee house around which TV series Friends was based, has closed its doors. Staff have been let go and the smell of coffee has gone stale.

"With the opening of Mirdif City Centre, a lot of our traffic has been diverted away from us," said Gaurang Patkar, Projects Division, Al Aqili Group, which manages the Central Perk chain in Dubai.

The café was opened at Mirdif amid a lot of fanfare. Youngsters flocked to the coffee house to plop themselves down on the "famous orange couch". At that time, the café was making profits. But, in the last two years, the daily income generated barely covered the annual rent, costs and salaries, a staff said. "We were losing money for the last two years," confirmed Abhay Nadkarni, Executive Director, Marketing and Commercial, Retail Division. "The asking rate per day to cover costs was not being met. For how long could the company incur losses?"

At a loss

With rentals touching the Dh300,000 to Dh400,000 mark, the franchise had to close shop. At the time of closure, the café employed 10 to 12 staff, including Indians, Filipinos and Sri Lankans at its Uptown branch. Although they were given a 45-day notice period, some are finding it difficult to get other jobs. While four have been offered internal transfers, the rest are on a job-hunt. Two of them haven't yet completed three months into the job and cannot pay the Dh6,000 to Dh7,000 fee to overwrite the automatic job ban.

"I'd hang out here with my friends, lounging on our favourite orange couch," said Janie McIntosh, 18, a Mirdif resident. "It meant to me the same way that the coffee shop in Friends meant to the characters in the show. It was a home away from home; a place where friends met every day, where we had parties, each coming for coffee dressed in our favourite Friends character."