herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

'Time to make Bewleys a protected site'

Damien Cassidy, from Sandymount, at Bewley's Cafe, Grafton Street, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Damien Cassidy, from Sandymount, at Bewley's Cafe, Grafton Street, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

A campaigner who has been fighting for more than a decade to save Bewleys has called for the iconic restaurant to be turned into a national monument.

Damien Cassidy originally launched the Save Bewleys campaign in 2004 when it was first revealed that the Grafton Street store would be closing.

Since the announcement that the restaurant would be closing on a "temporary" basis, Mr Cassidy has restarted his initiative.

Protected

"They want to separate the top floor from the ground floor, which I feel will destroy the ambience of the place and this temporary closure will cost many people their jobs," Mr Cassidy told the Herald.

"It's because of this that I'm calling on the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht to intervene and make Bewleys a protected building in order to preserve it," he explained.

Mr Cassidy compared the building to the Crown Bar in Belfast, which he said the British National Trust took over when it looked like it might close in the 1970s, and wants Minister Heather Humphreys to do the same.

"The Crown Bar is less distinguished than Bewleys, but the National Trust stepped in," he said.

Mr Cassidy added that he is concerned how the potential loss of the building would affect tourism on Grafton Street.

The campaigner pointed out that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has raised the importance of tourism to the Irish economy.

"I will take this to the European courts if I have to," he said.

The campaigner also highlighted the importance Bewleys has in uniting social classes, saying that it is a "meeting place" for rich and poor alike where background is "irrelevant".

A spokesperson for Ms Humphreys said that the building was already a protected structure and that Dublin City Council would need to seek permission to make any alterations to its design.

In a statement announcing the closure last month, Bewleys said the move was necessary to secure the future of the renowned cafe, which is "currently significantly loss making".

The company said their losses stand at €1.2m a year. A substantial renovation project of the premises will take place during the closure, with the loss of 140 jobs.

simplify

When it reopens in the autumn, some 70 staff will be able to retain their jobs.

Bewleys said they are committed to the future of its Grafton Street cafe, but said it is necessary to restructure and simplify the operation to return it to a "sustainable financial position".

The extensive renovation and refurbishment project will cost €1m.

hnews@herald.ie

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