Cork cafes hand out free coffee in Starbucks protest

Independent outlets stage a day of action following a similar event in Dublin

A number of cafes and restaurants in Cork city offered free coffee throughout Tuesday in protest at the proliferation of Starbucks outlets in the city, following a similar event in Dublin last week.

Independent cafes handed out free hot drinks in the capital’s city centre last Tuesday in response to the opening of a new Starbucks on Crampton Quay in Dublin 2.

Cafes in Cork city decided to take a similar stand, with one cafe owner stating that the action by the Dublin businesses “struck a chord” with her.

Rebecca Harte, the owner of Farmgate Cafe on Princes Street and the organiser of the Cork event, said the customers who had been in on Tuesday were very "generous", with most of them leaving a tip or buying some cake.


“We had one male customer who said he was delighted and how it wasn’t so much about the protest, but remembering the community spirit and small businesses,” she said.

“Tourists were completely baffled. We had a funny moment where one tourist’s daughter came in with a Starbucks cup. We showed them the article [on the Dublin protest] from last week and they all sort of laughed and slunked off.”

Ms Harte added: “It was nice to respond to the cafes in Dublin doing it. We have three Starbucks cafes in the space of about three-minutes walking distance in the city.

“It gives the opportunity to refocus attention on small, independent businesses and cafes.”

Starbucks outlets are currently located at 11 St Patrick’s Street, 39 Princes Street and 11 Emmet Place in Cork city.

Since 2005, 73 Starbucks outlets have opened in Ireland.

Closure order

Cork City Council issued the Starbucks outlet on St Patrick's Street with a closure order on June 29th, 2017, for not having the correct planning permission, but it remains open.

“The case is currently under review with a view to taking prosecution,” said a spokeswoman for the council.

“The city council pursued enforcement action in relation to 39 Princes Street and 11 Emmet Place, which both opened up as Starbucks cafes without the necessary planning permission. Retention permission was granted by the city council in both of those cases as the use did not contravene zoning and development objectives for these areas.”

Ernest Cantillon, owner of Electric bar and restaurant on Cork's South Mall, said his business had handed out more than 200 coffees over Tuesday morning.

“We had a bit of a manic morning, it was much busier than usual, there was a lot of our regulars and then some who probably saw it on social media,” he said.

“There was a bit of a different motivation for us. We were thanking customers for continuing to stay with us, rather than anti-Starbucks. It was a great morning and people got a bit of a kick out of it.”

The Rocket Man salad and juice bar, also located on Princes Street, handed out coffee on the house for the day.

"When you drink coffee in your local independent coffee shop (wherever that may be), you are supporting local coffee roasters and shops, keeping money in the local community, and keeping small independent business in business," it said on Facebook.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times