Sheffield gallery café still shut as negotiations continue on five-star hotel plan

The Central Library and Graves Gallery in Sheffield
The Central Library and Graves Gallery in Sheffield

The café in Sheffield’s Central Library and Graves Gallery is still shut months after being forced to close because of a leak - as talks continue about the prospect of turning the building into a five-star hotel.

The coffee shop, which is inside the gallery, closed at the start of this year after water leaked from pipework on the roof, meaning repairs were needed.

The Central Library and Graves Gallery in Sheffield

The Central Library and Graves Gallery in Sheffield

Months later, visitors are still being directed to the café at the nearby Millennium Gallery instead.

A spokesman for Museums Sheffield, which runs the Graves exhibition space, said the trust was ‘still waiting’ for council contractors to investigate and fix the problem.

“We haven’t currently been given a date for when the work will take place, but we’re in regular contact with the council regarding updates on progress,” he said.

The wider building is being looked at by the council’s Chinese development partner, Sichuan Guodong Group, as a potential spot for the city’s first five-star hotel.

The proposals, announced last November, were for the building to be leased to the company, not sold. Sichuan Guodong was to be granted a 12-month exclusivity deal to explore the scheme’s feasibility.

An update given to a full council meeting earlier this month by Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, revealed the agreement had still not been officially signed, but the authority continued to ‘work closely’ with the investors ‘to develop the project’.

The mood around the negotiations is understood to be positive, despite progress moving more slowly than initially hoped.

In March it emerged that Sheffield Town Hall was being considered as a new venue for a city centre library, should the plan come to fruition. If the hotel scheme is not taken forward, the library would stay in its present location, as the council will not consider leaving the building empty.

In both scenarios the gallery would stay - if the hotel went ahead the artworks would most likely switch to the ground floor.

A petition to prevent the library from moving attracted more than 10,800 signatures, and the cause was backed by actor, broadcaster and writer Michael Palin, who grew up in Broomhill.

“The Central Library embodies the very best aspects of civic pride,” said Mr Palin in a letter to the Sheffield Telegraph in November. “It’s a fine building, built to give education and literacy a prominent place at the very heart of the city. That a building, seeking to improve the lot of all Sheffielders, should end up as a hotel for the rich and privileged seems a sad reflection on how little the city cares for its public service legacy.”