A High Court judge has granted an interim injunction restraining the agents of George's Street Arcade from padlocking at certain late hours a set of gates that serve as part of an emergency exit for the Market Bar.
Mr Justice Senan Allen made the order on Friday evening in response to an application by Mercroft Taverns Limited, which operates The Market Bar on Dublin's Fade Street.
As the application was made on an ex-parte basis, Layden Properties Georges Street Limited, which owns and manages the arcade, was not represented in court.
Tomas Keyes BL, instructed by Whitney Moore solicitors, for Mercroft, said that at various times recently the gates, which belong to Layden, have been locked when the shopping centre closed in the evening.
The bar has a liquor licence that allows it to operate until 2.30am, and it requires access to all of its emergency exits on busy weekend nights, Mr Keyes said.
Were the order to be refused, Mr Keyes said it is possible the bar would have to temporarily shut down or “severely curtail” the number of patrons allowed onto the premises on Friday night and over the weekend.
The interim injunction granted restrains the defendant, its servants or agents from placing a padlock, bolt or other mechanism that interferes with the ability to open the automated pedestrian gate, situated in George’s Street Arcade, between certain hours. Mr Justice Allen ordered that Mercroft must lock the gate at 3.30am after its service has ended. The orders will remain in place until the case returns before the court on Tuesday.
The padlock has created “significant difficulties” for the bar, said Mr Keyes, and it had the potential to affect the health and safety of its patrons. Mr Keyes said the gates were not locked on Thursday night, a move he believes came in response to correspondence sent by his instructing solicitor.
Right of way
In an affidavit, Mercroft’s company director, Niall McFadden, referred to a lease from 1998 that he says is understood to grant the Market Bar a right of way over this portion of Layden’s premises during business hours. Outside of business hours this corridor, which leads to Drury Street, was for emergency escape purposes only.
The bar has relied upon this route as one of three emergency exits for more than 20 years, he said. However, he said that periodically since June 2020 he has noticed the gate had been shut, and he made arrangements with the arcade’s manager to remedy the situation.
The fire gate opens automatically upon being triggered by a fire alarm, and it is connected to both parties’ fire systems, Mr McFadden said. In recent years building works undertaken by the bar have caused the fire gate to open automatically a number of times. The court heard that this led to agents of the arcade being woken at 5 am on one occasion.
Mr McFadden said he was “shocked” to see a padlock on the gate on Monday of this week and was “very concerned” about the risk of leaving it in place if the bar was to cater to its capacity of more than 700 patrons. He said that with Covid-19 restrictions easing, he believed the bar would be getting busier.
Mr Justice Allen said he was satisfied Mercroft had made out a strong case that it is entitled to use the exit in the event of an emergency. He said he cannot see from the evidence how Layden would be prejudiced by the emergency regime put in place.