A coffee chain is facing an uphill struggle to be allowed to keep its flagship outlet in Cork open.
Starbucks has been notified that it will require planning permission for its branch on St Patrick’s Street to remain in business.
The US multinational has already been issued with enforcement proceedings by Cork City Council over the unauthorised change of use of a former O2 store to the coffee shop in 2015. The case was referred to the courts after Starbucks failed to comply with a closure order by June 29, 2017.
In a new ruling, An Bord Pleanála has stated that the use of the premises for the sale of convenience goods is a development which requires planning permission.
It has previously issued two similar rulings when Starbucks had sought clarification about the use of the building as a coffee shop.
Starbucks removed seating and a customer toilet from the premises between the two referrals in what was regarded as an attempt to have its outlet defined as a shop rather than a café, which might obviate the need for it to obtain change of use planning permission.
The latest referral to An Bord Pleanála arose following a dispute between Cork City Council and Starbucks over seeking confirmation of what type of use of the building required planning permission.
The council advised Starbucks that its use as one of the company’s coffee shops would require planning permission — a question which the coffee chain claims it had not asked.
Starbucks said it had only sought clarification about whether planning permission would be required for the sale of convenience goods as it was seeking to establish the range of goods that could be sold from the premises consistent with its use as a shop.
A Starbucks spokesman said the issue was between the local planning authorities and the Entertainment Enterprises Group, its licensed partner which operates its stores in Ireland.
An Bord Pleanála has now ruled that the use of the premises as a Starbucks coffee shop does not constitute a shop as its predominant use is the sale of hot drinks for consumption off the premises.
Last year, the board refused planning permission for a new store on St Patrick’s Street to another leading coffee shop chain, Caffe Nero.
It ruled that the use of the premises as a coffee shop would materially contravene the Cork City Development Plan 2015-2021 which seeks to protect the city centre’s retail core.
The plan has an objective to restrict certain types of outlets including offices, hot food takeaways, convenience stores, pubs, nightclubs, mobile phone shops, betting shops, and restaurants from use at ground floor level in prime shopping areas.
Starbucks also opened two other outlets in Cork City at Princes St and Emmet Place without the necessary planning permission.
However, retention permission was granted by the council as they did not contravene the zoning and development objectives for those areas.