A NUMBER OF complaints have been lodged with Dublin City Council over a new Starbucks which has opened on Drury Street on the southside of Dublin city.
Councillor Mannix Flynn lodged his objections last week regarding both the signage outside of the building and the change of use of the outlet.
Flynn has said he would have preferred if there had been consultation with the locals in the area before the renovation of the building (formerly a clothes store/coffee bar) into a full café was started.
Once a complaint is made to DCC, it is required to examine the situation further.
Dublin City Council confirmed in a statement that it was investigating the Starbucks in relation to complaints received.
“Dublin City Council can confirm that this operation is under investigation following complaints received about signage and change of use of the building,” the statement reads.
When the investigation is complete, all complainants will be advised of the outcome in accordance with the provisions of the planning and development acts.
While the outcome of the investigation could find that Starbucks hasn’t breached any planning rules, Flynn also made the complaint to highlight a broader issue.
He argues that too many big brand, multinational outlets in an area can negatively impact local, independent cafés and outlets in the city.
“What you are dealing with here is a consortium – one that literally wants to brand itself all over the place,” he says.
We need to be sure not to let monopolies taking over the uniqueness of our streets and areas.
Starbucks opened its first outlet in Dublin in Dundrum Town Centre in August 2005. This was quickly followed by the opening of its College Green store that September.
The company’s Irish operation was fully taken over by the Entertainment Enterprises in 2012, an Irish group ran by brothers Ciarán and Colum Butler, which also runs TGI Fridays and the chain of Mao restaurants.
Today, on the back of a rapid expansion since, Starbucks has 21 outlets in Dublin city centre (between the two canals) according to its website.
Richard Guiney of Dublin Town, Dublin City’s business improvement district - an enterprise that focuses on business in the city centre – said that there is room for both big brands like Starbucks, Costa Coffee, etc. and smaller “mom and pop” type shops in the city.
“If you look at consumer research people say that they want both big names and independent stores,” he said.
People want different things – the same person might want different things on different days.
What people are really craving is choice.
Guiney says that big brands such as Starbucks have their place in Dublin as do smaller independent outlets, and that the key is to strike a balance between the two.
He says that in terms of planning, an over-saturation of one particular brand (like Starbucks) isn’t a factor in terms of whether the stores are allowed to open in a specific area.
“There wouldn’t be anything in terms of saying I don’t want x or y brand here,” he said.
The Creative Quarter and its unique identity has been spectacularly successful and the balance has worked.
The Creative Quarter
Drury Street sits in the centre of Dublin city’s Creative Quarter, a collection of streets extends from South William St to George’s St, and from Lower Stephen’s St to Exchequer St.
The area was so-named in 2012 as part of a drive to highlight specialist business and to designate certain sections of Dublin city.
The street is known for its independent outlets and boutiques, with designer and craft stores situated alongside cafés and small restaurants.
It is already home to Kaph coffee shop, Industry, Considered (operated by Dunnes Stores) and it backs onto the George’s Street Arcade (also full of cafés and small restaurants).
The Starbucks outlet opened last month at the other end of the street to these businesses, facing onto Fade Street. Its facade is drawn back from the street, ensuring that it doesn’t stick out too much.
In terms of business in the area, Chris Keegan, the owner of the independently run Kaph coffee shop on the street, Starbucks arrival hasn’t been bad.
“Starbucks opening has had no effect on us whatsoever,” he said.
Drury Street is interesting in that it’s kind of a tale of two streets. Further up this street doesn’t really have the same footfall as where we are.
My personal view is that the worst thing for a street is a closed shop front and it’s better to have something open and trading – even if it is a technically a competitor – than to have a closed shop front.
However, Keegan said that the opening of the new Starbucks has marked a change in the nature of the street.
“It would be a pity if it became ‘another high street’.”
However, on a business level, Keegan said that Starbucks hasn’t impacted on the area.
“It’s like comparing McDonald’s the haute cuisine in terms the offer,” he said.
Starbucks and Entertainment Enterprises have been approached for comment but no statement was forthcoming at the time of publication.