Temple Bar firms concerned over plan to sell units for €10m
TRADERS on Cows Lane in Temple Bar are concerned that a decision by Dublin City Council to sell-off properties on the street could change the character of the area and the terms of leases.
The council has decided to sell 25 properties in and around the popular pedestrian street in the hope of raising €10m.
Selling the buildings is part of the dissolution of Temple Bar Cultural Trust, the state company that has been wound up.
The council has decided to give current tenants first refusal when it comes to buying the buildings.
It has also promised to protect the terms of the current leases as a condition of selling to other buyers.
Some of the businesses affected told the Herald of their concerns about the plan.
Norbert Halasz, who runs the Dublin Ink tattoo shop, said he's worried about the implications of the sell-off.
"Cows Lane has always been a place where small, independent businesses could get a good start, but if new owners come in, that same level of care for the smaller niche trader might not be as strong," he told the Herald.
"As well as that, the council are saying that leases will not be affected, but will the terms of the leases change? This is the question."
Mr Halasz said he would consider buying the property, but he doesn't know what the price will be or if banks would be willing to lend or not.
Bob Johnston, who owns the Gutter Bookshop, also said he will look at the option of buying but, again, doesn't know what the price might be.
"I have been in retail business for a while and know the system or paying your rent, negotiating leases and getting on with things, so in a way the possible changes are nothing new to me," he said.
"I will have a look at the property, but I don't know if I will buy it or not.
"My only concern is that Cows Lane is a great place for developing a business when you start out, and I would like to see that continue."
Across the road, John Walsh has been running his auction business since 2001 when he took out a 20-year lease.
"When we started, the multi-nationals were not permitted to set up so that small niche businesses could be encouraged. That has begun to change, but Cows Lane has now found its feet and there's a good mix of cafes and businesses here," he said.
"Having Dublin City Council as a landlord might be prefer- able to some sort of pension fund business."
Dave Mooney in the ThunderSolas leather designs shop echoed this view.
"The five-year upwards-only rent system would be a worry if a new owner came along, and the option to buy depends on price and the willingness of a bank to lend," he said.
Assistant council chief executive Brendan Kenny said traders will be given a chance to buy the units before they are offered to the wider market.
"If they don't buy them, the condition of sale to other buyers would be that the leases are protected. The only thing that would change would be who there landlord is."