Final votes will be cast on Tuesday in a plebiscite to determine the future of the DublinTown organisation, which runs the city’s Business Improvement District (BID) scheme.
The scheme was set up 15 years ago to promote the city and supplement council services, including cleaning, graffiti removal, floral planting and Christmas lights.
More than 2,500 city businesses are legally obliged to pay the equivalent of about 5 per cent of their rates bill each year to DublinTown. Rate-payers within its area of operation, which includes most of the north and south central business district but not Temple Bar, cannot opt out of paying.
A plebiscite of businesses is held every five years to determine if the organisation should continue to operate. At the time of the first plebiscite in 2012, 68 per cent of businesses voted in favour of continuing the scheme. This dropped to 54 per cent in 2017 following a concerted campaign by some businesses who opposed the compulsory nature of BID membership and charges.
The “No to BID” campaign is again calling for a no vote, claiming the payment represents double taxation for businesses already paying rates to the council.
Paul Foley, of the Corkscrew wine shop on Chatham Street, said that during several years of construction work on the street, he had received no assistance from DublinTown.
“It’s double taxation, it’s a levy to a private company. Why am I paying twice for the same service?”
Mr Foley said he has had to pay for additional window cleaning as a result of the construction work and had also paid for advertising, but has had no support from the organisation.
“I’ve gone for years struggling to make my business work and not at any of these times have a received any assistance from BID. I am paying for this service, a service that doesn’t exit.”
Cól Campbell, owner of Bewley's on Grafton Street and the current DublinTown chairman, said it was essential that the organisation continued in what was a challenging time for city businesses.
“It’s crucial that we get people to choose to come back into work, to socialise and shop in the city centre, and DublinTown provides a forum for people to work together, to co-operate, to build an offering that the public will choose.”
Independent councillor Mannix Flynn, who has taken out newspaper and radio ads in support of the campaign against the BID, said he does not believe the organisation has a future.
“People have realised they are not getting what they thought they were for their money and many other businesses have no idea they are paying the BID levy because their landlord charges it as part of their rent,” he said.
“I think the BID will be defeated, but even if the vote passes, I think there will be huge campaign of disobedience in the form of a refusal to pay. When push comes to shove, it is no longer viable.”
In a statement, Dublin Town said its services would not be replaced it if was disbanded. "Businesses know that no viable alternative to DublinTown has been put forward by those opposing its renewal and crucially businesses need a voice that represents them particularly during these challenging times."
Ballots must be returned to Dublin City Council by noon on Tuesday. The count will be held in City Hall on Wednesday.