Coffee shops cracking up as they’re not allowed to use their outdoor seating

June 19th, 2020 8:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

Cllr Sean O’Donovan said he would feel much safer sitting on an outdoor seat provided by his local coffee shot, that he knows is being regularly sanitised. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

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A BANDON coffee shop owner says it feels like there’s one rule for Dublin, and another for the rest of the country when it comes to having outdoor seating for use by their customers.

As reported recently in The Southern Star, socially distanced and sanitised tables and chairs had been placed on the town’s fish corner and also at St Finbarr’s Place.

Local coffee shop owners, Sandy Harrington of Cracked and Jacinta Warren of Warren Allen had welcomed the move, and had praised local Cllr Sean O’Donovan for helping to bring it about.

The seats were also available for use by the general public, and both business women had set up sanitation stations on the sites.

However, on the Friday of the bank holiday weekend they were asked by gardai to remove the furniture under Covid-19 regulations which limit cafes and restaurants to a takeaway service only until June 29th.

Jacinta, who has also had to remove seating on the path outside her business, said it was ‘galling,’ and ‘hard to understand.’

‘Our hands are tied and we have to comply with the law. It’s difficult to understand the logic at play. People can’t sit on our furniture which is sanitised every 15 minutes but they can sit on Council furniture further up the street,’ she said.

She also stressed that their disappointment wasn’t motivated by potential financial gain either, but because of customer feedback.

‘Sitting down and enjoying a take-out coffee was helping to create a feelgood factor and creating a bit of hope out there,’ she said.

On her Facebook page she wrote: ‘Sometimes I believe we need to be responsible for our own actions and if you want to sit at a seat that complies with all regulations, then you should be able to make that decision for yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable, then you don’t have to sit there. The health implications for allowing unsanitised Council benches to be used are far worse than allowing our sanitised ones.’

Sandy Harrington of Cracked café said she felt common sense had come into play when, after consultations with the Council, they were able to avail of outdoor furniture.

‘But now it seems like law and State don’t know what’s going on. I’m very disappointed, especially as I’m seeing pictures of people enjoying drinks outside Dublin premises. It’s like there’s one rule for the capital, and another for the rest of the country. We have to wait another four weeks before we can do this.’

Cllr O’Donovan said he had written to Minister Simon Harris to highlight the issue.

He said on social media: ‘Why can the cafés not put outside tables and chairs that are socially-distanced and cleaned and sanitised on a regular basis? In every town and village there are park benches and seats that have been provided by the local Council. These seats are used for people to sit out and have a coffee or picnic etc. These seats and benches are not sanitised or hardly ever cleaned. I would feel much safer sitting on a seat provided by my local coffee shop, that I know has been cleaned and sanitised.’

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