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'Bewley's belongs to Dubliners' - plea for State help

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Damien Cassidy made the call

Damien Cassidy made the call

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Damien Cassidy made the call

A Dublin conservationist has called for the State to intervene to stop the iconic Bewley's Cafe on Dublin's Grafton Street from closing.

Damien Cassidy is chairman of the Save Bewley's Cafe Campaign, and has said heritage buildings like Bewley's should really belong to the people of Dublin.

He was speaking at a rally outside the well known city landmark yesterday, which is currently closed because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Earlier this month it was announced that it would close its doors permanently with the loss of 110 jobs because of a combination of factors, including high rents and operating costs, coupled with the loss of footfall.

This, the company says, has rendered the operation unsustainable.

The historic restaurant and cafe, known as Bewley's Oriental Cafe, has been an iconic Dublin landmark since it opened its doors in 1927.

"Bewley's Cafe Grafton Street Limited confirms that the management of the Bewley's Café on Grafton Street has written to staff to inform them that it is with deep regret and great sadness that it is likely to be necessary to permanently close the cafe over the coming weeks," the company said in a statement on May 6.

The cafe is owned by artist Paddy Campbell. It is a protected structure and a landmark for generations of Dubliners and visitors to the capital alike.

Heritage

However, with annual rents of €1.5m, the impact of the lockdown was effectively a final nail in the coffin for the establishment, a source said.

Conservationist Damien Campbell said the State needs to introduce laws where heritage buildings are not "up for grabs".

"This is a Dublin icon. It is a heritage building, and any heritage building should belong to the people of Dublin," he said.

Dubliner Ray Quiqley also said he believes the cafe should be saved.

"The amount of rent is very high. How is any business supposed to survive at this time and pay that rent?" he said.

"We've bailed out the banks before, and now it's time to bail out Bewley's," he added.

Mr Quigley said he was a daily visitor to the cafe, and as well as the cafe and interaction with the staff he enjoyed the stained glass windows by artist Harry Clarke.