Minister urged to prevent closure of Four Courts restaurant
Lawyers say facility a help to people going through the ‘stress’ of legal proceedings
The Minister for Justice has been urged to intervene to prevent the permanent closure from next week of the only public restaurant in the Four Courts. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.
The Minister for Justice has been urged to intervene to prevent the permanent closure from next week of the only public restaurant in the Four Courts.
The restaurant has operated for more than four decades and employs nine staff, who were informed two weeks ago by their employer, Aramark, that it would be closing from July 31st. It is believed the intention is to use the restaurant space for offices.
The Four Courts, which is used by hundreds of people daily, is owned by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and its main tenant is the Courts Service.
The closure has been strongly criticised by the Bar Council and the Law Society, who are other tenants in the building, and by hundreds of other court users who have signed a petition objecting to it.
A private restaurant accessible only to barristers will continue to operate and there is also a small coffee shop, capable of seating 20 people and which, unlike the restaurant, does not serve hot meals.
A small bar, the only bar in any court building in Europe, had operated alongside the public restaurant but has effectively not operated for some time.
Paul McGarry, chairman of the Bar Council, said the organisation was very concerned about the closure and has written to the OPW and the Courts Service urging the continued operation of a public restaurant.
‘The Bar Council will “agitate strongly” to ensure there is a public restaurant in the Four Courts building, he said.
“We’re very concerned about the effect this will have on people as a visit to the courts is never an experience without stress or difficulty.”
Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, said he had written to the Minister for Justice urging him to intervene to prevent this “act of indifference to the public” from proceeding.
“The Minister, as a former practising solicitor, will understand the importance of people having somewhere to sit and have a cup of tea and some food while waiting for their case to start or during it,” he said.
“The restaurant provides an invaluable and essential public service for people going to court in what is probably amongst the most difficult and stressful times of their lives.”
He said it was “nonsense” to suggest court users could avail of other restaurants and coffee shops outside the Four Courts as may were hanging around waiting for cases to start and might only receive a few minutes notice if their case is called.
A spokesman for the OPW confirmed the operator would close the restaurant at ethe end of the month “as agreed between both parties”.
“The space will be returned to the Courts Service who will determine its future use,” he said.
Brendan Ryan, chief executive of the Courts Service, said the service is a tenant of the OPW and does not operate restaurant facilities. He said there was great demand for office space within the Four Courts complex and that any additional space would be welcome.