Bewley's Oriental Cafes in Dublin city centre are to close with the loss of 234 jobs. The two outlets on Grafton Street and Westmoreland Street are to stop trading before Christmas.

The two cafes have been in business for over 100 years and are steeped in Dublin history.

But last night, it was announced that both cafes are to close. The announcement was made following a board meeting of the Campbell Bewley Group, which has owned Bewleys since 1986.

In a statement, the company said the cafes could no longer be subsidised by its other activities. It is understood the cafes have run up losses of over €4m since 1996 and despite an investment of €12m to refurbish the two establishments.

The company also blamed the rise in popularity of smaller cafes and increases in rent, rates and insurance and also the smoking ban for the closures.

The Campbell Bewley Group said that a proposed major redesign of the two premises was commissioned earlier this year. However, the group said it had became clear in recent months that the total costs of this development was negate any potential increase in revenues.

In a statement, the group said that alternative viability options were explored which would enable Bewley's to maintain a cafe presence, such as a partnership with successful restaurant and/or licensed trade operators. 'Although his has not been totally ruled out, it is now considered unlikely,' the statement added.

The Westmoreland Street premises will be developed in the coming years in order to realise its full commercial potential, the company said. It added that it will dispose of its leasehold interest in its Grafton Street premises.

Both cafes will close their doors at the end of November, pending negotiations with the employees.