Bewley’s makes offer to landlord in bid to save Grafton Street cafe

Coffee group offers to pay rent arrears and other costs and indicates cafe would reopen

 Bewley’s cafe on Grafton Street, Dublin, has been closed since March 16th.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Bewley’s cafe on Grafton Street, Dublin, has been closed since March 16th. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

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Irish coffee group Bewley’s has made an offer to the landlord of its famous Grafton Street cafe that could save it from closure.

In a letter sent to Ronan Group Real Estate, which is controlled by Irish property developer Johnny Ronan, Bewley’s has offered to pay its rent arrears on the property, along with interest and legal costs.

The cafe has been closed since March 16th, when the Government introduced lockdown restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus, and Bewley’s has not paid rent for the past four months.

The decision to close the café permanently was revealed by The Irish Times in May by the operator of the business, Bewley’s Ltd, which is owned by artist Paddy Campbell. On July 1st, the cafe’s 110 staff were informed they were being made redundant.

The closure was blamed on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy, and the €1.5 million annual rental cost on the protected structure.

RGRE responded to Bewley’s decision by issuing a petition for the winding up of the company that operates the cafe. The matter went to mediation but no agreement was reached.

In its letter to RGRE, Bewley’s says it has “now raised appropriate finance” and is in a position to discharge its rent arrears and “interest owing under the lease and the landlord’s reasonable costs”. The offer is subject to RGRE withdrawing its legal proceedings.

Bewley’s said it had been “carefully monitoring trading conditions within the marketplace, assessing the potential of newly-introduced government supports, identifying opportunities for reductions in overheads and the realisation of existing assets, and engaging with providers of finance”.

It has also taken into account the “unique cultural importance of Bewley’s Café Grafton Street to the city of Dublin and to past, present, and future generations of Irish people”, it added.

‘Fantastic team’

When contacted by The Irish Times, Bewley’s confirmed it had made an offer to RGRE, “ whereby Bewley’s would save its café operation on Grafton Street”.

“In the event that the proposal made today by Bewley’s Café is accepted by the landlord, Bewley’s would of course be delighted to commence work with the fantastic team of people that makes Bewley’s so special, and to plan for the reopening of Ireland’s most iconic café,” the company added.

A spokesman for RGRE said it was considering the proposal, but questioned if the cafe would, in fact, reopen. “How could you believe anything Bewley’s say given what’s happened?”

Bewley’s Oriental Cafes Ltd opened on Grafton Street in 1927 and is probably the best-known coffee shop in Dublin, even though it has struggled to be profitable in recent times. The rent amounted to about 30 per cent of the café’s annual sales.

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