Starbucks outlet to finally close after planning battle

A controversial Starbucks outlet on Cork city’s main street has closed after a three-year planning battle.

It follows enforcement action by Cork City Council in the wake of rulings from An Bord Pleanála that planning permission would be required for the St Patrick’s St cafe to remain in business.

The cafe opened in 2015 in a former mobile phone shop.

But Starbucks licensed partner and the operator of its stores in Ireland, Entertainment Enterprises Group, never secured planning permission for the change of use of the building.

While it argued that what was being sold was consistent with the building’s previous use as a shop, city planners disagreed and the matter was referred to An Bord Pleanála first in 2015.

The board agreed the use of the premises as a coffee shop meant it was not exempt from planning.

Starbucks then removed the tables, seats and toilets, arguing the location operated strictly as a takeaway and was, therefore, a shop rather than a cafe.

But when the matter was considered again by the board, it said that didn’t change the situation and that planning would be required.

The city council then ordered the unauthorised use of the premises cease, and the case was referred to the courts when Starbucks failed to comply with a closure order by June 29, 2017.

Last September, independent cafe owners in Cork handed out free coffees during a one-day protest over the coffee giant’s expansion in the city.

Court proceedings were adjourned, however, when Starbucks sought further clarification on planning issues from the board but it ruled in August the use of the premises for the sale of convenience goods is a development which requires planning.

Entertainment Enterprises Group was not available for comment last night.

The city’s head of planning, Pat Ledwidge, said he doesn’t like to see empty retail units on the city’s main street but planning law must be upheld.

I understand that there will always be some vacant units, as businesses change and leases come up, but St Patrick’s St is our front room window, and their are criteria and policies governing development there. And everyone is subject to the planning laws. We don’t discriminate,” he said.

The city council also pursued enforcement action in relation to Starbucks outlets on Princes St and Emmet Place, which both opened without the necessary planning permission. Retention permission was granted by the council in both cases as the use did not contravene zoning and development objectives in those areas.

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