Burger King is quitting Oxford city centre because it can no longer afford the rent being charged on its restaurant.

The fast food giant will not reopen its Cornmarket branch, which closed when lockdown was announced in March.

A property agent acting for the company said it had been forced out by the high rent being charged by its landlord, Oxford University's Jesus College, which had also refused to extend the short lease on the two-story building, which sits beside WHSmith at the heart of the city.

The fast food company's departure ends a decades-long presence in the city centre and leaves Oxford with just one other branch, at the Cowley Retail Park. The next nearest is at Welcome Break's Oxford Services on the M40. It's Bicester branch was also closed for lockdown.

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A 'To Let' sign on the closed up Cornmarket restaurant invites prospective new tenants to call chartered surveyors and commercial property agents AG&G. The Covent Garden-based agency works with some of the biggest restaurant and pub chains, including Nandos, Five Guys, Fullers, Green King and Pizza Express.

Talking ahead of National Burger Day, AG&G Director Richard Negus said the company had "tried to negotiate" with Jesus, but insisted the college would not budge. He said the company would not have made enough money to have justified the level of rent being charged.

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He said: "There is a short lease. We wanted to reach an agreement to secure the lease and make provision to keep it open as and when coronavirus finished, but couldn't get an agreement... so it has been put on the market.

"Every restaurant company in the land is struggling. Burger King liked being in Oxford, but it hasn't worked for them and they don't make money.

Oxford Mail:

"It's sad and we would have liked to stay but it was unviable to stay on that rent." He said the hamburger chain – home of the flame-grilled Whopper – was now concentrating on out of town locations, adding: "They are trying to find new sites, but that's difficult."

Traders association OX (Rescue Oxford) said the burger restaurant would be missed by its customers and raised concerns about the future of trading in the city centre.

Spokesman Graham Jones said: "These are testing times and we just aren't getting people into Oxford in sufficient volumes.

"There are no language schools, no summer schools and no international tourists – so all restaurants are struggling.

"Burger King served very well the younger population and was very popular with people wanting to get a quick meal and get on to do other things."

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He added: "If Jesus College is increasing rents it looks like it's trying to kill the business and has other uses lined-up.

"If it wants business to flourish in Oxford, it has got to accept less, based on lower customer levels, for some time.

"There is a question as to how far businesses can be squeezed."

He said struggling shops in the city centre were taking only 20-30 per cent of what they were taking this time last year.

Independent Oxford supports and promotes independent businesses in the city. Director Rosie Jacobs said: "It's really tough for all businesses and it's sad to hear of another closure. Landlords really need to acknowledge the situation and work with tennants for some longevity. It's in no-one's interest to have empty units."

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A public relations agency representing Burger King had no knowledge of the closure nor the fact other tenants were being sought for the property, saying: "We are working to ensure as many of our restaurants as possible are open during this challenging time.

"We expect this particular restaurant to reopen in the coming months, but will keep you informed of further information when it becomes available and we thank our loyal customers for their patience in the meantime.”

Jesus College was approached for a comment.