€5m to transform former city tourist office into a food court
Michael Wright has told a judge he will pour €5m into a complete refit of Dublin's historic St Andrew's Protestant Church as a licensed food court, banqueting hall and culture centre.
Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, promised the famous restaurateur a seven-day drinks licence provided the redevelopment was carried out in accordance with city council planning permission.
Mr Wright - a member of the Howth family which runs restaurants and a seafood business - recently won world recognition for his Marqette food hall at Dublin Airport.
He told solicitor Constance Cassidy, who appeared in the licensing application with barrister Niki Andrews, that the St Andrew's project was modelled on the airport food hall.
He said his company had been asked to set up similar outlets at JFK Airport in New York, Vancouver Airport in Canada and Manchester and Birmingham airports in England.
Mr Wright's company, Mink Fusion, is hopeful the food court - which will employ 70 chefs - will grow to rival Cork's English Market.
Mr Wright said he was looking forward to the challenge of redeveloping the Suffolk Street listed building and was confident that the work would be complete within nine months.
The neo-Gothic church, which is fronted by the Molly Malone statue, was formerly used as a tourist information centre by Bord Failte.
Mr Wright said that he wanted to provide the city with a vibrant public space for the area.
Architect Joseph Doyle told the court the proposal primarily related to the interior of the building and there would be little or no visual impact on the surrounding streetscape, and that the 19th-century gates and railings would not be removed in the project.
Mink Fusion proposes to secure the site at night to avoid misuse and to protect more than 100 historic gravestones spread around the site.
Judge Groarke granted Mink Fusion a Declaratory Order for a full seven-day publican's licence and restaurant certificate on the basis of completion within the parameters of planning permission.
Ms Cassidy said that in order to facilitate the granting of a new licence, an existing licence in Main Street, Castleconnell, Co Limerick, had been extinguished.