‘We just want visibility on the street and access to our shop.’ A Dublin shop speaks out about the issues outdoor dining has caused them
Many have welcomed outdoor seating as a ticket back to normality for pubs and restaurants, but Irish Design Shop on Drury Street in Dublin have spoken out about how their shop has been affected.
With indoor dining not set to return until the beginning of July, and even then limits on capacity will mean many are still eating outdoors, we have seen street furniture popping up around the country.
And while it’s great to see pubs and restaurants opening up again, as well as in many places giving streets over to pedestrians rather than traffic, there can be consequences for others on the street.
One such case is Irish Design Shop on Drury Street in Dublin. An IMAGE favourite for their collection of beautiful Irish made homewares, jewellery and gifts, they recently posted on Instagram about their frustration at outdoor seating for neighbouring businesses right outside their shop.
They describe feeling “penned in” by the seating, which means that customers can only access the shop from one side, with an entrance point far beyond where the shop actually is.
“The tables and chairs are obstructing customers crossing freely from one side of the street to the other,” co-founder Clare Grennan explains. “When diners are in these seats, customers physically cannot cross the road to get to our shop. Access to our shop is from a narrow pathway which runs in front, so customers would need to cross the road from, say Oliver Bonas at one end and the jewellers at Castle Market at the other end to gain access to our shop.”
As she points out, this makes it incredibly unlikely for people to come across them by accident. “We rely on new customers finding us weekly. We are not as visible now, and new customers may not fancy the hassle of getting through such an obstacle. In the past week, our footfall has been predominantly regular customers.”
The problem is also amplified once the neighbouring businesses become busy. “Once the bar beside us warms up in the afternoons, access is entirely blocked from the Exchequer Street end of our street along the narrow pathway, as high stools and sometimes barrels appear. The white fencing installed by DCC provides an additional barrier to customers.”
Clare and co-founder Laura Caffrey are by no means opposed to outdoor dining on the street, saying it brings life and activity to the area. However, they have had no consultation about the changes from Dublin City Council, and daily attempts to contact them about it have gone unanswered.
They say that the issue is that there are no clear boundaries between each business. “Clear access to shops would be a start. Better access is also needed for wheelchair users and for people with buggies. They have been given no consideration in the rushed pedestrianization of the street and area.”
They would also like to see a consistent approach on the street. “The mish-mash of tables, chairs and signage looks cluttered and congested. We are in serious need of some greenery and would love planters installed by DCC rather than the white fencing (which has been ripped up by last week’s revellers and often blows down on the street).”
It is yet another challenge for a small business that has faced so many in the last 15 months, and the pair are understandably feeling frustrated. In recent weeks they were also affected by disorder in the city centre, forcing them to close early.
“Without the support of fellow small business owners in our area and our customers, we would feel really alone. Since reopening in May, we have faced one challenge after another. Between the anti-social behaviour of previous weeks and now this new challenge, we just want a period of steady business now. We want to focus on our business, prepare for our busiest time of the year, and look after our in-store customers, who we are delighted to welcome into our shop once again.”
Clare and Laura do say that on a positive note, outdoor hospitality has helped bring a sense of normality back to the city centre. “We are feeling hopeful for the months ahead, that people will want to come in and visit the city. Some say we are totally overreacting, and we do of course question ourselves. We are not confrontational people, but this does seem a bit unfair. We just want visibility on the street and access to our shop.”