Sunday 25 August 2019

The right moves: Demand for restaurants adds to pressure on planners and on rents

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

The improving economy has caused a surge in demand for restaurants and coffee shop premises. This is causing headaches for Dublin City planners, who are rejecting applications for new outlets on the most popular streets. This in turn leads to an increase in the value of properties which already have permission. This dynamic has reached the stage where a restaurant operator will probably outbid any retailer for a property by 20pc in some locations. It opens up a debate about who should be controlling the number of restaurants: the planners, or the market?

The 'hottest' Dublin streets for food and beverage operators are around Dawson Street, Fade Street, South William Street and Georges Street. The planners seem to have decided in some cases that there are enough restaurants on these streets as there has been a spate of refusals of planning permission.

The planning theory is that there should be a sustainable mixture of shops, offices, restaurants and other city centre uses on our streets. This is understandable, to an extent, but many will question the point of having shops empty for long periods of time, whilst restaurateurs would be delighted to occupy them, employ people and pay rates.

I see no difficulty in allowing certain streets to become dominated by restaurants, bars and coffee shops - there are more than enough shops and offices on adjoining streets.

However, the council's concerns would seem to be borne out in the 'request for further information' on the application by The Ivy to open in Green Reit's, One Molesworth Street development.

One of the planners queries the amount of space needed, and asks if some of the ground floor can be used for retailing.

In my view, the Dawson Street/Molesworth Street location is perfect for a large, up-market restaurant. It would serve the thousands of new office workers who will be based there from next year. Grafton Street is just minutes away, and the later opening hours of a world-famous restaurant brand would add to the vibrancy of this part of the city at night for longer than shuttered shops would.

The recent notification of a decision to grant permission at Central Plaza (the former Central Bank) permits six restaurants/cafes at plaza/sub-plaza level, plus the rooftop restaurant, which is positive, but highlights what I would interpret as the council's strategy of limiting the number of new restaurants in the area to the south. I don't agree that uses on our streets should be left to the market to sort out, but I fear that opposition to food and beverage uses, in certain locations, has gone too far.

● Business has a flexible friend in Cork

I was in Cork last week to speak to the sales teams at Kearys Motor Group. Kearys, with multiple dealerships and selling 5,000 cars per annum, is one of Ireland's largest motor groups.

Managing director Bill Keary said the group is embarking on a major training programme for its staff, which will embrace the fast changing technology in the motor business, to further improve customer experience.

To emphasise the rate of change being experienced more generally, rather than book a meeting room in a hotel, the sales event took place in one of Cork's new 'flexible' business locations, a facility known as 'The Republic of Work' at 12 South Mall.

This co-working space of 1550 sq m opened earlier this year, offering short-term office and desk space. Its managing director, Frank Brennan, told me that the business is going extremely well.

The business model is to offer a rolling 30-day contract on either 'hot-desks' or 'dedicated desks' which suits companies that are growing, longer established firms that need extra space, and incoming multinational projects.

The rent for a hot desk is €299 plus VAT per month, or €399 plus VAT for a dedicated desk. Those rates include heating, lighting, electricity, WiFi and a printing allowance. Private suites of offices are also available.

Mr Brennan said that the community aspect of the facility is crucial, with a lot of collaboration between the occupants.

The weekly 'lunch-and-learn' sessions see outside experts speaking on topics such as financing, pitching for business and employment law. Bank of Ireland has four desks in the building which are provided to university graduates starting up companies.

Mr Brennan sees potential for further Republic of Work facilities in the Cork suburbs. He also plans to open facilities in Limerick and Galway.

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