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Dublin cafes give away coffees in Starbucks protest

Independents in city centre say they are ‘surrounded’ by US chain

Eric Levy, barista at Foam cafe in Strand Street Great, in Dublin, who will taking part in Free Coffee Day, supporting independent business. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

The prospect of another new Starbucks outlet opening in Dublin city centre has prompted a number of cafes and coffee shops to offer free hot drinks to customers on Tuesday.

There are 50 Starbucks outlets in Dublin, according to the company’s website, while another is expected to open soon in a former recruiters’ office on Crampton Quay.

Dublin City Council has granted planning permission to the Irish Property Value Fund plc for “change of use of the basement and ground floor levels from office to cafe use” at 1-3 Crampton Quay.

Coffee shop operators believe the area is already well served and Ciaran Hogan, who runs The Clockwork Door on Wellington Quay, organised the free coffee initiative after receiving “confirmation” another Starbucks was coming.

“Our goal with the event is just to remind people come to the local places, support the local places. That’s all we’re really trying to do,” he said.

“I don’t like when everything is just bland and there’s no flavour and there’s no difference. When you go to a Starbucks in Dublin, it’s the same as going to one in London or wherever else. Imagine having only chains in Dublin, there would be nothing unique.”

‘We don’t need any more’

Coffee shops and cafes handing out free coffee on Tuesday include Foam Cafe on Strand Street (1-2pm), CoCo Brew in Temple Bar (8-11am) and Gallagher & Co on D’Olier Street (1-2pm and 5-7pm).

Tom Butler, owner of Foam Cafe, said outlets such as Starbucks are “just boring” for the city. “We’re basically just surrounded by Starbucks. It just feels like we’re being strangled really,” he said.

“It’s just way more difficult for independent shops to stay and open and compete against that type of thing, especially when they’re kind of surrounding you and there’s so many of them.”

Tony Divito, owner of CoCo Brew, which opened six months ago, said his coffee shop was taking part to help create awareness .

“Obviously having one of these Starbucks opening up on your block is not ideal...We don’t need any more, we’re starting to look like America if you ask me.”

Coffee ‘empire’

Dublin city councillor Mannix Flynn said “smaller coffee shops were at a disadvantage because of the kind of empire these outlets are”.

“They’re already finding it very difficult to cope with current conditions. The independent coffee shops are basically being run out of business, it’s not fair.”

There are 50 Starbucks outlets in Dublin, according to the company’s website, and another is opening soon. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

A spokesman for Starbucks said it would be creating 15 positions in its Crampton Quay outlet and that it would have more than 800 baristas in Ireland.

“We are proud to be part of Dublin’s vibrant coffee culture. Whilst we are not the biggest coffee brand in Dublin, it’s great to see many independents and brands raising the bar with innovation and coffee quality, giving Irish customers even more choice,” he said.