Cork can ‘lead way’ on outdoor dining after Covid-19 subsides

Council decision in 2020 to pedestrianise 17 city streets ‘offers potential for restaurants’

Cork could become a prototype for other Irish cities by offering open-air dining when Covid-19 numbers fall and it is deemed safe for restaurants to reopen, according to Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty.

Ms Doherty said the decision by the council last year to pedestrianise 17 streets offered potential for restaurants and other eating establishments to capitalise on the move towards outdoor dining necessitated by Covid-19 guidelines.

Many of the streets such as Oliver Plunkett Street and adjoining streets such as Marlborough Street South, Cook Street South, Princes Street South, Pembroke Street and Caroline Street, are already home to well-established eateries and would lend themselves to outdoor dining areas, she said.

Ms Doherty instanced the example of Princes Street South, which is home to a variety of restaurants, as a one likely to lead the way in outdoor dining. Restaurant owners there have already been in discussions with the council about providing protection against the elements.


“The traders in Princes Street have sourced a solution which is a demountable solution. It’s going to be flexible in that if the day is beautiful you can enjoy the weather but, conversely, if there is bad weather it will provide protection against the elements.”

The council’s discussions with Princes Street traders also took account of safety considerations, she said.

Similarly, the council was conscious of the need to keep the footpath clear and free of obstruction so that the city remains welcoming for wheelchair users and others with disability, she said.

Ms Doherty's vision of Cork's potential tallies with Government plans to encourage European-style outdoor dining to help combat the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin last week announced a €17 million package to help create outdoor dining spaces.

Ms Martin revealed that businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to €4,000 to invest in outdoor seating and other amenities while local authorities can obtain grants up to €200,000 for investment in weatherproofing and outdoor dining infrastructure.

Ms Doherty said each street in Cork would be looked at individually and what might work for traders serving food on Prince Street might not work for those on streets such as Pembroke Street or Cook Street or Marlborough Street and each solution would have to be tailored to each street’s needs.

Medieval city

Asked if she had any fears that a concentration of outdoor dining on the side streets on the southern side of Oliver Plunkett Street could prove damaging to restaurants in other parts of the city centre, Ms Doherty replied that each street should be examined on its own merits.

“We have the most beautiful medieval city and . . . we need to be careful that we keep the beautiful variety of the different streets so we are doing everything on a street by street basis.”

Ms Doherty said that streets and laneways on the northern side of Patrick Street, such as French Church Street and Carey's Lane and along Paul Street all the way to Crawford Art Gallery and Emmet Place, have a vibrancy about them that also offered huge potential for further development.

“We’re in a space at the moment where we are very much trying to support business so we have waived the street furniture licence – we still have to go through the process of licensing all street furniture – it’s per chair and per table but we waived the cost of that for business.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times