Dublin is set to get its first rooftop cinema after temporary planning permission was granted to transform the top floor of a multi-storey car park in the city centre into an open-air cinema and restaurant.
Dublin City Council has approved plans to alter the upper levels of the Trinity Street car park, which is located behind Dame Street, to also provide for a gallery and exhibition area on the building's fifth floor.
However, council planners indicated it would not allow a proposed cocktail bar to operate separately.
The project is the brainchild of chef Niall Davidson, whose company, Table 21 restaurants, has secured permission for a change of use of the top floors of the multi-storey car park for a maximum period of three years.
The Derry-born chef, who opened Allta restaurant and wine bar on Setanta Place in Dublin in 2019 after returning from working in London, sought approval for the change use as he considered it was unlikely indoor dining would return to the capital before the autumn.
However, the council has attached a condition that the uses are limited to a gallery, licensed outdoor restaurant and cinema which shall be closed to the public between midnight and 8am daily.
Pawnbeach, the owner of an adjoining bar, 4 Dame Lane, had expressed concern that Mr Davidson’s plans could “easily morph into a full rooftop cocktail bar with only a small element of restaurant.”
Consultants acting for Pawnbeach claimed the application by Table 21 Restaurants was scant on hard information and placed more emphasis on the outdoor cinema and cocktail bar than on the workings of a restaurant.
While Pawnbeach said it was very supportive of the concept of a rooftop restaurant at the location, it did not believe the plans including the proposed kitchen facilities were capable of supporting a 190-seater restaurant.
The company said it was concerned the proposed development would have a negative impact on its business “given the extremely tough economic times that have decimated the licensed bar industry due to the Covid-19 imposition of lockdown.”
It claimed the rooftop restaurant and cinema could also create problems in terms of noise and nuisance which could lead to “the area developing a public image problem.”
While Pawnbeach said it was also very supportive of initiatives by Dublin City Council to facilitate increased outdoor dining in the city centre, it asked for planning conditions to be imposed which would prevent it from becoming over time “a cocktail bar or pub with limited food offerings.”
Bashview, the owners of the Trinity Street car park said the proposed development would provide “a unique attraction to combat the decline in visitor numbers witnessed over the past 18 months.”
The company said the temporary plans for the rooftop restaurant would not impact on its plans to demolish the multi-storey car park building, which includes Pichet restaurant.
Bashview recently obtaining planning permission from An Bord Pleanála to build a nine-storey office block on the site with a restaurant at ground floor level.
Mr Davison, who has temporarily closed his Dublin restaurant to relocate to the Boat House in Slane Castle for two months during the summer, said it was planned to operate the open air cinema on Sundays and early week nights.
It is not the first time that plans for a rooftop cinema in Dublin have been proposed.
In 2018, a brand agency, Outset, was informed that its plans to stage a series of “pop up” cinema screenings on the top floor of the car park in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre was not an exempted development and would require planning permission.
The company has planned to create a temporary cinema with a 350-seat capacity on an astro-turf surface with sun-loungers and blankets as well as bar and catering facilities.
Outset believed the temporary nature of its proposal that the outdoor cinema would not be used for more than 15 days continuously or an aggregate of 30 days per year meant it would be exempt from requiring planning permission.