Traders rally against parade road closures

BUSINESS chiefs in Cork city have warned that plans to close a key road during the St Patrick’s Day parade could cost them tens of thousands of euro in lost revenue.

Several leading city centre business owners and department store managers have written to City Hall expressing their concerns, just days before officials are due to sign off on the March 17 route.

The Cork Business Association (CBA), which represents hundreds of city traders, has backed its members. The CBA said it cannot afford to lose such vast amounts given the current dire economic and trading conditions.

CBA spokesman Donal Healy also said his organisation is angry because it was not consulted about the parade route and road closures, despite raising similar concerns after last year’s event.

He stressed that his members have embraced and welcome the city’s St Patrick’s Day Festival, which starts this year on March 14, culminating with the parade on March 17. Up to 50,000 people are expected to attend.

But he said changes must be made to planned road closures, which were introduced for the first time last year and which hit businesses badly.

The 2008 parade broke from tradition with a new route along the South Mall, the Grand Parade, up St Patrick’s Street and down Merchant’s Quay.

It required the closure of Parnell Place, which forced the closure of the city’s biggest car park at Merchant’s Quay. That in turn had a huge knock-on effect on Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Penneys, Brown Thomas, Quills and Eason’s.

It also halted trolley shopping, which hit trading in the Merchants Quay shopping centre.

Within days, some businesses supplied figures to the CBA, which showed their trade on parade day plummeted in some cases by up to 50%.

One store manager said it was the worst trading of any St Patrick’s day.

The CBA wrote to City Hall outlining these concerns, and requested that they be consulted about future parades. But Mr Healy said that did not happen this year.

“While we welcome the weekend festival and the footfall it will bring, we ask if the car park could open for business on the day, with even a single lane entrance and exit maintained throughout the day,” he said.

“In the current economic climate where retailers are suffering downturn in sales, this would boost retail sales and help alleviate traffic congestion elsewhere on the day.”

City Hall published this year’s proposed parade route — which will be the same as last year — on February 13 and requested submissions by close of business on Friday. It is expected to make a final decision within days.

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