Saturday 25 May 2019

Shock at closure of popular town cafe

Emmet Ronan pictured outside Harvey’s Coffee House & Bistro
Emmet Ronan pictured outside Harvey’s Coffee House & Bistro
Harvey’s Coffee House & Bistro has closed its doors
Sugar & Spice is up for rent

Brendan Keane

There was shock expressed in New Ross at the weekend with the unexpected closure of one of the town's most prominent and well-known cafes.

Harvey's Coffee House and Bistro has been in operation for five years and had an enviable reputation as being one of the town's most popular venues for eating out.

However, last Saturday it shut its doors for the last time at 5 p.m. and according to owner, Emmett Ronan, it was the culmination of a number of factors including rates and decreasing footfall.

'We were struggling for cash flow since the snow earlier in the year,' he told this newspaper yesterday.

'New Ross is a tough operating climate to do business in and if I had opened in Wexford or Waterford I think the business would have been ok,' he added.

Describing himself as someone who is from New Ross and wanted to do business in the town he said the issue of rates is one area that needs to be addressed but was quick to point out that wasn't the sole factor in him having to shut his doors.

'It is something that needs to be looked at when you think that I could have been in operation in Wexford or Waterford for more-or-less the same operating costs but I would have had far more customers and footfall than is in New Ross,' he said.

'Having to pay the same standard of rates as businesses in those areas, while operating in a town the size of New Ross is something that should be looked at,' he added.

However, he went on to comment that his own landlord had been very good to him but New Ross now is not the same as it was five years ago.

'If you go along South Street now you'll likely find parking relatively easy but that wasn't the case a few years ago so things are changing,' he said.

'Footfall has been steadily declining,' he said.

Mr Ronan had three people working for him in the business and they are now out of work, however, he commented that they are highly training and is hopeful they will get employment soon although it will likely be outside of the town.

When asked if he would set up in New Ross again he said it's something he would never repeat.

'I would never go back into business again,' he said.

'I have been a manager in businesses for almost 15 years but unless you had a serious turnover of cash to begin with I would not go back into being self-employed again,' he added.

He said another factor that contributed to the closure is the structure through which VAT is collected.

'A lot of money was spent on equipment but you have to wait three months to get that back but you could be done in that time,' he said.

'Everything keeps putting a hole in your budget.'

While acknowledging rates as an issue he said they weren't the only factor.

He suggested there should be an amnesty on rates while businesses are trying to pay off on equipment.

'I loved being self-employed and we were very busy but being busy doesn't necessarily mean you have the cash flow to keep things going,' he said.

Mr Ronan believes New Ross can benefit when the new by-pass is completed as the traffic nightmare that currently exists in the town will cease.

'There is a hinterland on the far side of the bridge that doesn't come into town because of the traffic issues but when the by-pass is completed that's a situation that should change,' he said.

However, he said plans need to be developed now for when the by-pass is completed because 'if the town waits until it is done then it will be too late'.

He said he hopes the by-pass will be a catalyst for change because at present New Ross is 'a very difficult place to trade in'.

The closure follows on from another local cafe, Sugar & Spice, also closing its doors - much to the shock of its regular clientele.

Also among the town's most popular eateries it was in operation in South Street for many years. The premises in which the business operated is now being advertised to rent.

New Ross Standard