Dublin canal boat restaurants banned from offering take away during restrictions

Boats must not provide food when stationary - Waterways Ireland

Dublin canal boat restaurants have been banned from operating take-away during the Covid-19 pandemic. Waterways Ireland says that regulations allow refreshments to be provided “as the vessels are moving” but not when stationary. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Dublin canal boat restaurants have been banned from offering take away services during the Covid-19 pandemic after Waterways Ireland said meals or “refreshments” could be provided on board “as the vessels are moving” but not when a boat is stationary.

Restaurant owners said the ban was having a devastating effect on their livelihoods and was unfair when all on-shore restaurants were permitted to offer takeaway services.

Waterways Ireland said it “empathises deeply” with commercial operators who are unable to operate due to the pandemic, but said it cannot support activities that are in breach of Covid-19 restrictions.

Sam Field Corbett has been selling ice-cream and coffee from the MV Cadhla for the past three weeks. The boat previously traded as City Canal Cruises, “a cruising restaurant barge” on the canal.

“We were in a desperate situation, these boats need to be kept in order and that costs money. It was also so demoralising for staff to be out of work, so we started serving coffee and ice-cream and it went very well.”

Mr Field Corbett said he was contacted by Waterways Ireland and told to stop, but he continues to operate. “All across Ireland restaurants that can’t open have been offering take away, and the Government told local authorities that could be done without planning permission,” he said.

Shiful Islam, on the La Peniche on the Grand Canal at Mespil Road. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
Shiful Islam, on the La Peniche on the Grand Canal at Mespil Road. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

“Our licensing is done by Waterways Ireland not the local authorities, but apart from that I don’t see the difference. This is having a devastating effect on our business and I would say Waterways Ireland is deeply un-empatheic.”

Mr Field Corbett previously ran another floating restaurant on the canal, La Peniche. It is currently operated by chef Shiful Islam. “Normally La Peniche is a moving vessel, but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do that so we decided to do take away,” Mr Islam said.

He fitted the boat with pizza ovens and opened last Thursday at 12.30pm. “At 4pm the gardaí arrived and said Waterways Ireland had told them we don’t have a trading licence for this activity because we were stationary and that we had to close,” he said.

“We did close, but now we have €5,000 of fresh goods we have to throw away. This makes no sense. All we want to do is get back to work.”

Waterways Ireland said there was a “significant difference between a cruising passenger boat providing meals to a limited number of passengers” and a stationary boat moored “for the purpose of selling take-away food to members of the public”.

It said it understood a take-away business “trading from a boat at a fixed location” would require planning permission, but when “the vessels are moving, the activity does not require planning permission.”

It was working with “the relevant authorities to enforce COVID restrictions. This specifically applies to any situation which encourages congregations of people.”

Large numbers of people were congregating along the Grand Canal it said. “This is leading to increases in anti-social behaviour, littering and impacting on the physical integrity of the banks themselves. It is placing significant demands on the gardaí, particularly at weekends.”

Labour city councillor Dermot Lacey said he believed these businesses should be encouraged.

“My view is either Dublin City Council should be directly involved in the management of Waterways Ireland or that responsibility and funding for same should be transferred to the Council.”