Caffe Nero has irons in the fire at Ovens bar in Cork city

London-based coffee shop chain Caffe Nero is seeking to open at least two outlets in Cork City, three years after arriving in Dublin where it now has nine cafes.

It has just sought planning permission for a change of use to cafe at 110 Patrick Street, next to Easons, while a deal is also about to close on No 17 Oliver Plunkett Street, previously the long-established Ovens Bar, which is a large, double fronted premises of c 1,600 sq ft owned by a private investor landlord.

Preliminary works have commenced this week on No 17 Oliver Plunkett Street in anticipation of the closing of the deal with Caffe Nero.

The 1997-founded chain, described as Europe’s largest independent coffee retailer, has over 650 outlets, employs up to 5,000 staff and reported revenues of £230 million in 2014, when it announced plans to expand to 40 Irish outlets in a €20m investment roll-out.

It now has a cafe in Louth, two in Northern Ireland in Bangor and Belfast, and nine in Dublin, at locations such as Merrion Row, Lower O’Connell Street, King Street, Donnybrook Road, Excise Walk and Lower Camden Street.

Having opened in the US in 2014, London-based Caffe Nero’s company founder Gerry Ford said they planned to open eight to 10 Irish stores per year, in locations such as suburban Dublin, and would also look at partnering with other retailers and airports and other transport hub options.

It is understood that Caffe Nero has other Cork locations in its sights, including Patrick Street, but Oliver Plunkett Street will be its first Cork foothold.

Agent Robert Jeffrey, who represented the landlord, and Aiden McDonnell who’s associate head of retail with Colliers Dublin and who acted for Caffe Nero, yesterday both declined to comment on the deal, in the final stage of completion.

No 17 Oliver Plunkett Street is in a prime trading position on the largely pedestrianised Oliver Plunkett Street, by Brown Thomas on Caroline Street, and a nearby recent arrival is fashion retailer Marc Cain, at No 19.

Also close by are coffee retailers Mahers, and independent cafes such as Italee Cafe, Idaho Cafe, as well as Jacques restaurant, and The Oliver Plunkett.

The arrival of such a strong branded presence comes after the arrival in the past two years of Starbucks in Cork, a few of whose cafes became mired in planning and change of use disputes, with Bord Pleanála ruling against the coffee chain in at least one instance.

However, it’s understood that no such change of use application is needed for converting from a bar to cafe: it’s a point likely to come up for discussion, in some of the city’s finest coffee emporiums and forums, as Nero rolls into town.


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