Covid-19 will leave a long-term mark on Cork city centre with the pedestrianisation of 18 streets made permanent due to its success.
Restaurant owners in Cork say the change has led to a huge growth in outdoor dining and a more attractive and vibrant urban centre.
Conrad Howard, co-owner of the Market Lane Group, whose restaurants include three on the pedestrianised Oliver Plunkett Street, says outdoor dining has been a lifesaver for the industry in the city.
“It has been fantastic so far,” he says, praising Cork City Council for its “can-do attitude” in terms of expediting permission.
“People have just embraced it,” he says of customers. He says with the help canopies, outdoor heaters and even hot water bottles, the Irish are taking on the cafe/restaurant terrace culture of other European cities.
“Being able to take over city pavements and loading bays on Oliver Plunkett Street has really populated it. It almost looks bare when the tables and chairs are not there,” he says.
The streets Cork City Council has permanently pedestrianised were temporarily changed in the summer of 2020 as part of the “reimagining Cork city” programme.
The programme was a response to Covid-19 but was also an acceleration of the council’s vision for a city of more sustainable urban growth.
Following overwhelmingly positive reaction to the initiative, it was agreed to permanently pedestrianise the streets as of January of this year. The city centre can now accommodate up to 1,000 residents and visitors to eat and drink al fresco.
David Joyce, director of operations at Cork City Council, says pedestrianising the city’s busiest streets not only protects people’s health but is a response to public surveys, “which have told us that the people of Cork want a liveable, people-friendly city.”