Subscriber OnlyProperty

Ever dreamed of escaping the rat race and opening a cafe? Here are five potential properties

These properties in Kerry, Cork Kilkenny, Donegal and Waterford cost €85,000-€700,000

These pretty tea rooms near Kenmare in Co Kerry are on the market for €150,000

If you’ve been dreaming of a change of pace and want an opportunity to escape the rat race and set up a food business somewhere, then the time is now.

You could saddle up a food truck, but if you want to sink your teeth into something more substantial, a tea room is a genteel way to go – one that will also ensure that at least some of your evenings are spent off the shop floor, essential if you’re going to also try and raise a family.

It’s something veteran cafe and restaurant operator Helen Cunningham has first-hand experience of. She now runs the Phoenix Café (the winner of an Irish Times Best Shop award) in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, but when her family was young she ran Blaze’s, one of the original late-night dining and live music spots in Temple Bar, and lived with her children above the eatery.

If you’re living over the premises, she says, it isn’t the late nights but being on call 24 hours a day that will impact you. Having separate access to accommodation is helpful. She spent years walking through the dining room at Blaze’s to get home, often traipsing the kids behind her.


If buying in an urban setting then consider a property that will give you the option to create some form of outdoor space. Cunningham put a roof terrace into the Temple Bar property. It gave her home an outdoor aspect and she also used it to grow herbs and vegetables for use in the restaurant.

Another essential is a good coffee machine. Expect to pay at least €5,000-€10,000 for one, she says.

If you’re going to cook everything from scratch then it’s going to be full on, Cunningham says. She makes everything from scratch at the Phoenix Café, from jams to bread, soups, stews and sauces, using the walled garden belonging to the Office of Public Works adjacent to the premises to grow the vegetables and produce she requires. She even sells the excess in the cafe. So if the property you like doesn’t have its own land then consider leasing additional ground from a neighbour to grow your own.

Here are five tasty properties that may help sweeten your thinking.

1. Lakeside picnic potential

Address: Lake House dance hall and tea room, Cloonee, Kenmare, Co Kerry
Agent: SherryFitzGerald Daly
Price: €400,000, €250,000 or €150,000

Lake House, tea room and dance hall in Co Kerry

Situated 15km west of Kenmare and about 33km to the port of Castletownbere, this beguiling part of Co Kerry’s lake lands comes with a menu of purchase options.

First up is a 1950s tea room, just 24sq m (264sq ft) in size, built about a decade after the adjacent dancehall to serve teas to the mainly dry, as in alcohol-free, dances, the origin of the term tea-dance. The hall, built in the 1940s, has a further  129sq m (1,390sq ft) of space and could become a home, while you could operate the tea room as a mainly takeaway or outdoor cafe and picnic pick-up. The property is located on the Wild Atlantic Way and on the Ring of Beara. Combined, these properties sit on 0.47 of an acre and are asking for €150,000.

Also for sale is the Lake House, which is situated across the road on 0.56 of an acre. It comprises a family-run country pub, famed for its trad music sessions, restaurant and five-guestroom accommodation. Asking for €250,000, this includes a seven-day bar licence with the pub running all year round, while the eatery operates from March to the end of September. All told, it extends to 386sq m (4,162sq ft) and the guestrooms could be turned into an on-site residence, but there is also scope to extend further out over the bar to give you living quarters.

Exterior of tea room

2. French fancy in east Cork

Address: 61/62 South Main Street, Youghal, Co Cork
Agent: SherryFitzGerald Hennessy
Price: €185,000

Tea rooms in east Cork

If you do like to be beside the seaside, then Youghal’s Rendezvous might offer a live-over-the-shop option. The three-storey, end-terrace, double-fronted property has a cafe at ground level with a living room, small galley kitchen, store room and full bathroom on the first floor, and four bedrooms on the first floor.

The property needs work, most especially at its upper levels. Currently, it has old electric storage heating only and it does not have any outside space, so bin storage will be a consideration that needs attention.

The building, which extends to 137sq m (1,475sq ft) over three floors, is adjacent to the town’s Clock Tower, which was built in 1777 as a gaol. The town has multiple sandy beaches with a timber boardwalk linking Claycastle to Redbarn. A greenway connecting it to Midleton is due for completion in about 18 months so there’s plenty of potential for a future takeaway business.

Time for a Rendezvous in Youghal, east Cork?

3. Asian influence in the marble city

Address: 49 High Street, Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny
Agent: Keane Auctioneers
Price: €700,000

This Chinese restaurant in the marble city has been closed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic

This is a striking, three-storey over ground level townhouse on one of Kilkenny city’s best streets for footfall. Situated opposite Dunnes Stores, it has operated as a sizeable Chinese restaurant for the last 30 years but has been closed since the start of Covid restrictions.

It offers a total of 851sq m (9,170sq ft) of space which includes a large eatery set over the ground and first floors, which extend to 565sq m (6,081sq ft), and a further two storeys of accommodation, 286sq m (3,078sq ft), currently set out in four flats.

These haven’t been upgraded in decades and will need attention. There is a small yard to the rear, and the possibility of putting a small roof terrace at first-floor level, subject to planning. This is west-facing.

Lotus restaurant in Kilkenny city

4. Cupán tae agus cáca milis sa Ghaeltacht

Address: Silver Strand House, Glencolmcille, Co Donegal
Agent: DNG Dorrian
Price: €265,000

Silver Strand House in Co Donegal

In the Co Donegal Gaeltacht parish of Glencolmcille, Silver Strand House sits just 150m from one of this part of the county’s most beloved beaches, the Silver Strand in Malinbeg. It is a townland that is teeming with tourists during the summer months, but you’ll have the place to yourself during the winter.

Built in 1993 and extended a decade later to 220sq m (2,374sq ft), Silver Strand House has been operating as a tea room, but there is scope to extend up under the roof to create accommodation above.

Sliabh Liag is about 15km to the south, while you’re about 8km from the nearest national school in the village of Cashel. The nearest secondary school is in Carrick. This is currently a seasonal business and the property is set on 0.32 of an acre.

Time for cupán tae agus cáca milis? This tea room is close to Silver Strand beach in Co Donegal

5. From fossil fuels to oaty edibles

Address: Kilmacthomas Service Station, The Square, Co Waterford
Agent: Barry Murphy Auctioneers
Price: €85,000

From fossil fuels to oaty edibles? This former service station in Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford, could have potential

This former service station on The Square in Kilmacthomas could, with the right kind of deep pockets and flair, become a really smart tea room. The location is framed by the Comeragh Mountains to the back and is within a few minutes of the Waterford Greenway.

Waterford city is 24km away, while Dungarvan is 22km. The village is home to a viaduct that forms part of the greenway and to Flahavan’s Mill, where the Flahavan family has been milling locally grown oats for more than 200 years. There could be some potential synergies with the supply of raw ingredients from oats for flapjacks and porridge to oat milk for the non-dairy brigade.

The property comprises two single-storey, lock-up units that extend to about 167sq m (1,800sq ft) and would require complete rebuilding to possibly a two-storey set-up with an indoor/outdoor tea room on the forecourt, all subject to planning.

Kilmacthomas view of the viaduct
Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors