Street furniture includes tables and chairs that require licensing, but consuming food outside cafes, restaurants, pubs, and hotels will only be permitted where 1.8m of footpath clearance remains.
County councillors have warned that hospitality sector providers in many coastal communities with narrow streets, such as tourist haven West Cork, could be forced out of business.
The Government is demanding local authorities enforce an act regulating the use of street furniture where businesses have to provide employer and public liability totalling €20m in many areas, along with a licensing fee of €100 per application and charges of €125 for every set of table and four chairs.
Councillors and council-employed engineers in West Cork agreed the new footpath clearance directive would be completely unworkable in the majority of tourist towns and villages in the region. Council engineers said tourist hotspots such as Schull, Crookhaven, Goleen, and Ballydehob in the Mizen peninsula, as well as Beara town Castletownbere and famed harbour town Bantry would suffer.
The only place in West Cork likely to be able to accommodate street furniture in parts of the town is Clonakilty, where footpaths were widened in recent years as part of a town centre upgrade scheme. Engineers said they had recently carried out a survey in Schull and found, under the directive, only one licensed premises and food provider would be legally entitled to put out tables and chairs.
There may be little scope to widen footpaths, engineers said, particularly where streets are quite narrow.
Declan Hurley, chairman of the council’s West Cork municipal district, described the government directive as being “very detrimental” to the local tourist industry.
“I don’t want to put any business in jeopardy by imposing these bylaws,” he said. “We’re not happy about this.”
Both he and council engineers said the directive might be suited to the wide streets of Dublin but not West Cork.
Councillor Danny Collins, who owns a public house in Bantry, said the charges also including €630 per sandwich board or advertising sign, were ridiculous as, in reality, eating outdoors was confined to “about six weeks of business in the year”.
Councillor and wheelchair user Patrick Murphy said a compromise needed to be reached as people with disability aids and mothers with prams found it very difficult to negotiate tables, chairs, advertising boards on narrow streets. He said wheelchair users and mothers with children are regularly forced onto roads.