Plan for Temple Bar ‘superpub’ in historic building refused

Merchant’s Arch Bar one of last remaining guildhall buildings in Dublin

The proposed development of Merchant’s Arch Bar would lead to an “overconcentration” of licensed premises in Temple Bar, An Bord Pleanála said. Photograph: Alan Betson

The proposed development of Merchant’s Arch Bar would lead to an “overconcentration” of licensed premises in Temple Bar, An Bord Pleanála said. Photograph: Alan Betson

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Plans to turn the Merchant’s Arch Bar, considered one of the most important historical buildings on Dublin’s south quays, into a “superpub” have been rejected by An Bord Pleanála.

Thomas Doone had earlier this year sought permission from Dublin City Council to extend the pub overlooking the Ha’penny Bridge into four adjoining buildings along Merchant’s Arch Lane, the early 19th-century pedestrian entrance to Temple Bar.

Mr Doone had already been granted a Circuit Court order which ensured he would be granted a drinks licence for the development if it secured planning permission.

However, the council last May refused permission on the basis the development “would constitute a ‘superpub’” and would have a “detrimental impact on the historic fabric and character” of the existing pub and the local area.

Mr Doone appealed the decision to the board, contending that the council had “misapplied” the term superpub to his establishment.

A superpub consists of a large floor plan with no seating or tables, extending over a number of floors and facilitating a “high intensity of use”, operating hours into the early morning, or playing live or loud music with a “primarily alcohol-based turnover”, according to his appeal.

The proposed development, the appeal said, “is a licensed restaurant and is not in the category of a night club, casino or superpub”, which could affect the amenity of residents.

‘Detrimental impact’

While the board did not use the word superpub in its refusal it said a “licensed premises of this significant scale would have a detrimental impact on the historic fabric and character of the subject site and of the local area” and that the proposal would lead to an “overconcentration” of licensed premises in that part of the city.

The development would lead to conditions that would “seriously injure the residential amenities of the existing residents in the area by reason of additional levels of noise and disturbance,” it said.

The board also said the development would have a unacceptable impact on the historic buildings involved.

The pub building was originally Merchant’s Hall, one of only three guildhalls surviving in the city, along with Tailors’ Hall and Carpenters’ Hall. Following the laying out of Wellington Quay, the Merchants Guild was offered a site for its new hall by the Wide Streets Commissioners, on the condition that a public right of way was maintained through an arch to Temple Bar.

The hall and arch were built by Frederick Darley in 1821. Following the disbandment of the guild in 1841, it became a boys’ school, and later a factory, before being used as a bar and restaurant from 1993.

The board said the Wellington Quay building was of “significant historical importance and architectural character” and the plan to extend it into a neighbouring building through a “historic elliptical staircase” would cause “serious injury” to the staircase hall, it said.

The board’s decision was a “landmark ruling” on pub extensions in Temple Bar, chairman of the Temple Bar Residents group Frank McDonald said.

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