Safety concerns raised over Dublin city outdoor restaurants

Applications open for tables and chairs on streets amid concerns from disability groups

The Oliver St John Gogarty in Temple Bar, Dublin. Until now the use of public space by cafes, restaurants, pubs and other businesses has been highly regulated by Dublin City Council. File photograph: Getty

The Oliver St John Gogarty in Temple Bar, Dublin. Until now the use of public space by cafes, restaurants, pubs and other businesses has been highly regulated by Dublin City Council. File photograph: Getty

 

Dublin businesses have been invited by Dublin City Council to apply for permission to put tables and chairs outside their premises, despite safety concerns on the part of disability groups.

A Covid-19 “mobility intervention programme” for the city published by the council and the National Transport Authority (NTA) in recent weeks proposed allowing businesses, particularly cafes and restaurants, to use outdoor space for customers, to enable them to reopen as coronavirus-related restrictions eased.

The council is now seeking applications from businesses “interested in expanding into the public realm” from June 29th.

Until now the use of public space by cafes, restaurants, pubs and other businesses has been highly regulated by the council, with annual licence fees and charges per table or per square metre of space used.

A programme for the city published in recent weeks proposed allowing businesses, particularly cafes and restaurants, to use outdoor space for customers, to enable them to reopen as coronavirus restrictions eased.
A programme for the city published in recent weeks proposed allowing businesses, particularly cafes and restaurants, to use outdoor space for customers, to enable them to reopen as coronavirus restrictions eased.

However, the council said, where the new applications are successful there will be no charge for using the outdoor space for six months, and businesses which had already paid for 2020 will be given a six-month credit in 2021.

The council said it wanted to “reimagine the streetscape in order to facilitate businesses such as cafes to reopen, or to accommodate retailers where queuing occurs outside their shops so that everyone can safely enjoy the city as restrictions are gradually reduced”.

Mobility problems

However, the Public Participation Network, an umbrella group of disability and community organisations, said the use of public space by businesses, particularly footpaths, would cause mobility problems for people with disabilities.

“Covering the footpath with chairs and tables is against the stated policy of the council. It is supposed to be decluttering the city. Disability groups, particularly the visually impaired, are seriously worried about this issue,” said Gary Kearney, social inclusion representative with the network.

“I understand completely the business owners need to reopen in a way that is safe and support this, [but] safe and easy access to the public realm must remain in all plans from concept,” he said.

The council said all applications will be assessed from a “public health, fire safety and public circulation point of view”.

It conceded that “many requests will have an impact on other residents or stakeholders on a street. Dublin City Council is committed to serving the common good for all and this context will be used when assessing individual requests.”

Businesses should not have “furniture in the public realm” before June 29th, the council said, as cafes and restaurants should only be providing a takeaway service under current restrictions.