MOSCOW (Reuters) - A historic grocery store in central Moscow is to close its doors after trading for more than a hundred years due to legal issues and a drop in tourism caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opened at the turn of the 20th century, Yeliseyevsky Store is known for its palatial, neo-baroque interior and wide selection of gourmet foods and souvenirs.
But the shelves -- usually filled with fresh fruit, fine spirits and traditional Russian ornaments -- have been eerily empty in recent days since the announcement that the shop would close in April.
"It wasn't just a place to drop by and buy some food," Muscovite Yelena Bakhtina told Reuters as she shopped at Yeliseyevsky.
"It has been a symbol of the city. I used to come here to admire the interiors. It's a pity we won't have this anymore."
Located on Tverskaya Street, a thoroughfare crossing the heart of the Russian capital, the store used to draw a steady stream of tourists, but their numbers have dwindled severely because of the pandemic.
During the Soviet era, the store was known as Gastronom No. 1 and sold a wide selection of goods despite food shortages.
Alexander Kanshin, a Chamber of Commerce and Industry official, told local television that a number of issues had caused the store to close its doors, including legal problems and changing behaviour of consumers who prefer to go to large stores in residential areas.
Municipal authorities have said the facility's next occupant will be obliged to preserve Yeliseyevsky's lavish interior as an architectural monument.
(Reporting by Lev Sergeev and Yury Bakhnov; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Ed Osmond)