THE so-called heavy hand of a local authority is proving too much for a businessman running one of Limerick’s smallest shops.
Eamonn O’Hagan is facing the prospect of bringing the shutters down on his shop on O’Connell Street.
In the past year, 54 retail shops have closed in the city’s commercial heartland.
In a tough economic climate, Limerick Chamber of Commerce has called for a cut in commercial rates.
Limerick city has the highest annual rate of valuation of any council in Ireland, reportedly 20% higher than the national average.
On average, retail business is down 20% in the city centre over the past three years — and Mr O’Hagan’s kiosk is struggling to survive. “You could hardly swing a cat in this place. Its front is about 9ft wide and it goes back in about 25 feet.”
But despite its size, City Hall sent him a commercial rates’ demand for over €6,300. On top of that, he faces a further council levy for €630, in respect of a sandwich board.
The 37-year-old widower decided to go out on his own four months ago and lease the kiosk on a six months trial period.
He works a 60 hour week running his little shop which boasts the “cheapest price for coffee” in the city.
Eamonn said he has to decide by Christmas whether to continue the lease until 2012. “Since I took up running the shop, I had nothing but hassle from the city council. I placed a tiny sandwich board outside the front door… Then I got a letter from the council saying it was ‘an advertising structure’.”
But his biggest shock was when he was approached about rates. “They said the rates would be just over €6,300 for the year. I am just trying to get this place up and running on my own and they are already after me for huge sums of money which I don’t have…
“This is the last straw, and they are going to close me down. They haven’t a clue what’s going on in the real world of trying to run a business — even a very small one like mine.
“My little shop has potential but is being strangled at birth by bureaucracy. In my eyes, they are doing their best to get me out of here.”
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