After the banks it's time we bailed out our small businesses
The Supreme Court has decided that Bewley's Cafe is liable to pay rent set at the height of the boom and property bubble on its premises in Grafton Street, Dublin, despite the decline in commercial rents during the recession. The lease can be adjusted on an upwards only basis – in other words, paying a rent of €1.46m instead of €728,000. The case concerned a specific clause in the lease, in a specific context and does not involve general application.
This decision has significant implications for commercial tenants around the country, but will be particularly harshly felt in the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, barely on its feet after six or seven gruelling years where mere survival was an achievement.
Business lobby groups have made it clear that the court's decision will undermine a potential return to stability in the economy and lead to the loss of vulnerable jobs in Irish retail. Apart from legal complexities, it can be seen as a case where the economic realities of Ireland in 2014 and common sense did not prevail.