Judge to visit Bewley’s to see if Harry Clarke windows are ‘removable’

Cafe and developer Johnny Ronan in dispute over whether windows form part of property

A High Court judge has agreed to visit Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street for a demonstration of the removal and reinsertion of its Harry Clarke stained glass windows.

The inspection will form part of the information submitted in an action brought by a company connected with developer Johnny Ronan, Ronan Group Real Estate Grafton Ltd, against Bewley's Cafe Grafton Street Ltd over whether the windows form part of the property or are removable artworks.

Ronan Group Real Estate, landlord of the premises, has claimed the operator of Bewley’s wants to donate the windows to the Irish people, a move that could attract a tax credit of 80 per cent of its value.

It also says it rejected a proposal by Bewley’s to offset the value of the windows in lieu of rent owed by selling them to the group.

The landlord has argued the cafe “can’t try to sell us what we already own”. The six windows, located on the ground floor, are estimated to be worth more than €1 million, according to the group.

Bewley’s contends that the windows were never part of the property and have from time to time, subject to statutory requirements, been moved freely within the premises.

Bernard Dunleavy SC, for Ronan Group Real Estate, told the court on Friday that there is “significant” disagreement between the parties as to whether the items form part of the building or, as Bewley’s asserts, are “decorative screens” hung in front of windows.

He said the ease at which they can be removed from their position and reinstalled without causing them damage will feature in the case. One expert witness contends only a screwdriver is required to remove them, counsel said.

Kelley Smith SC, for Bewley's, said her side agreed the visit would be useful and suggested a section of the cafe would be cordoned off to facilitate the inspection.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald said he had not visited Bewley’s for some 40 years and it would be helpful to see the items in situ. A date and time for the visit are to be agreed upon through liaising with the court.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter