A legal dispute has left the immediate future use of a significant historic building in question.
Stonehaven’s Carron restaurant closed suddenly in March, with chef Lee Soutar blaming the oil and gas downturn.
The B-listed eatery on Cameron Street, which includes some of the finest art deco features in the north of Scotland, first opened in 1937.
But now its owners admit they “really don’t know” whether the business can be revived.
Robert and Jacki Cleaver ran the highly-rated restaurant for nine years before retiring in 2014.
It was closed for a year before they leased it to Mr Soutar and his wife Charlotte – who revived its popularity.
But earlier this year the Soutars pulled the plug – announcing to shocked customers via social media that they were closing the doors.
They blamed financial pressures and high running costs on the closure and said a steep rise in business rates had been “the nail in the coffin”.
Mr and Mrs Cleaver said that they are now embroiled in a “very complicated” legal wrangle with Mr and Mrs Soutar and could not say what the future holds for the restaurant.
Asked if she thought it would re-open, Mrs Cleaver replied: “I really don’t know. I cannot comment on the legal issues – it is a very complicated situation.”
Mr Cleaver had previously expressed his disappointment at the couple’s decision to close, adding: “I’m devastated to see the young couple have not made a go of it.”
The building originally consisted of three shops on Evan Street with a tearoom accessed through a sunken garden from Cameron Street.
It closed briefly during World War II, then functioned as a restaurant until the late 1960s when it became the storeroom for a supermarket based in the shops behind.
Historic Environment Scotland describes it as a “fine example of Stonehaven’s 1930s architecture during its heyday as a popular seaside resort”.
Its Art Deco patterned glazing is said to be the “finest surviving in Scotland”.
Local businessman Jack Morrison spent more than £1million in the late 1990s when he restored the building to its former glory.
He sold it to the Cleavers in 2004.
Last night Mr Soutar said he did not wish to make any further comment.