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French gastronomy complex gulped up by coronavirus crisis

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Lyon (AFP)

A massive gastronomy complex in France's culinary capital of Lyon inaugurated nine months ago will not reopen after shuttering during the coronavirus lockdown due to the economic consequences of the outbreak, its management said Tuesday.

Until the strict stay-at-home rules to contain the coronavirus, the Cite Internationale de Gastronomie de Lyon offered meals, exhibitions, workshops and tours for foodies -- children and adults alike.

"Faced with uncertainty for the economy and tourism, and despite our best efforts to save it, we have decided to not reopen the Cite," the directors of the complex said in a statement.

The 4,000-square-metre (43,000-square foot) facility was located in an 800-year-old building overlooking the Rhone river, which was for most of its history was southeastern Lyon's main hospital.

From its inauguration, the complex faced criticism for its lack of cultural content on offer and for being expensive. Exhibitions cost 12 euros ($13.5) and lunch and dinner 29 euros ($33).

"The launch didn't go well, and the design didn't work. (…) There wasn't a clear principle, even if some things were a success, such as the children's area," said chef Regis Marcon, who was part of the strategic comittee, adding he was "not surprised" by the closure.

Freshly-elected green party head of the Lyon area Bruno Bernard said the closure was an opportunity for Lyon's dwellers to "reclaim the emblematic site" of the Grand Hotel-Dieu, a grand former hospital converted in 2010.

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