Outdoor canopies/covers will not be removed in the country's gourmet capital for the winter, despite a plea that the spaces they take up be used again for parking in the run-up to Christmas.
The request for their removal in Kinsale, Co Cork, caused a rift between two-party colleagues when one proposed the move at a meeting of the Bandon/Kinsale municipal district council.
Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy maintained the canopies be removed from streets and footpaths in order to reinstate parking spaces and loading bays in Kinsale.
He said they have outlived their usefulness because the winter is coming in.
“We should start reinstating the parking areas and bays. Trucks are parking all over the place. It's causing mayhem. I want this done as soon as possible,” Mr Murphy said.
Fine Gael councillor Marie O'Sullivan said the motion “touched a nerve” with her because she runs a cafe/restaurant in the town.
“I don't think there's any normality around at the moment. It's [removing canopies for outdoor dining] like cutting off a life support for businesses. We have been very fortunate that the council has allowed us to operate outside the curtilage of our businesses. It's vital that these outside areas are maintained. I really do think we need to keep this going,” Ms O'Sullivan said.
However, she did agree that if some businesses weren't using them, they should lose them.
Fianna Fáil councillor Sean O'Donovan, who's also involved in the hospitality trade, said outdoor covered seating areas were vital to maintaining many businesses.
“It's a bonus having them because with social distancing it means you must lose spaces inside. This motion goes against what the council is trying to do,” he told Mr Murphy.
“It would be a backward step. This has enhanced Kinsale no end, seeing people dining outside. It's the way forward for a tourist town like Kinsale,” independent councillor Alan Coleman said.
MacDara O'Hici, the senior council official for the region, said the installation of outdoor canopies had been very successful across the county and was supported by the council.
Mr Murphy added that some canopies were being used by drinkers and smokers and he especially didn't see the need for them to be taking up much-needed parking spaces around the town.
“This is the time to revert back until the actual [tourist] season starts again,” he said.
Ms O'Sullivan said she had five tables outside her premises and there was a queue for them most times.
“A lot of people still want to stay outside. I won't risk my business by letting an unvaccinated person inside,” she added.
Ms O'Sullivan said she'd had a number of inspections by HSE officials to ensure only fully-vaccinated people were being served indoors.
After some debate, Mr Murphy's motion was rejected as no other councillor would second it.