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'I'm not averse to a Starbucks, but not playing by the rules is frustrating'

Cork cafés organised a free coffee morning after a similar event was held in Dublin last week.

Image: Alexander Ishchenko via Shutterstock

YESTERDAY, INDEPENDENT COFFEE shops in Cork city held an event to thank their customers for their continued support – and to make a point to their local authority.

The Electric bar, located in Cork’s South Mall, was among several cafés that held a free coffee morning yesterday, as reported in the Irish Times today.

It followed on from an event in Dublin last week, where a number of coffee shops in the city centre offered customers free coffees to protest against the growing number of Starbucks coffee shops in the city centre.

“I see that everything is becoming monotone, by procedure and there’s no colour and flavour and there’s nothing unique about Dublin,” Ciaran Hogan of Clockwork Door on Wellington Quay told TheJournal.ie.

Ernest Cantillon, owner of Cork’s Electric bar said that although Cork hasn’t reached that “saturation point” yet, he believes that the Starbucks chain is treated differently to independent retailers.

Starbucks on Patrick Street, which opened in 2015, and was one of three Starbucks in Cork city to open without planning permission. Although Cork City Council is taking Starbucks to court over their refusal to close the Patrick Street store, the others remain open.

But for Cantillon, the competition isn’t why he offered free coffees from 10am – 1pm yesterday.

“I feel we offer a better product,” he says.

Usually big brands are about value – but with coffee shops it seems to be the reverse! [Starbucks] don’t do table service, and they don’t make fresh food.

Starbucks, meanwhile, welcomed the innovative and diverse coffee shop market in Dublin, saying it gave customers “even more choice”.

The reason his store was handing out free coffees yesterday, explains Cantillon, was more to do with the unique treatment afforded to Starbucks by the council.

shutterstock_644311111 Source: Monticello via Shutterstock

“I’m not averse to a Starbucks myself,” Cantillon says, “but the lack of playing by the rules is frustrating”.

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Others who took part in the coffee morning include The Rocket Man salad bar and the Farmgate Café, which is located in the historic English Market.

Cantillon said that the morning yesterday was “exceptionally busy”, and they had to extend the two-hour window when free coffees were being offered by one hour to cater for the demand.

“People were coming in saying ‘Oh, did we miss the free coffee? We just saw it on Twitter’.

Rather than calling the event a “protest”, Cantillon says it was more about thanking its regular customers for supporting the business.

We were down on our morning takings – it’s an expensive thing to do, to give out coffee.
But there was a great buzz about. People were coming in asking for grandé lattes, which is obviously Starbucks terminology. We gave out pieces of cake as well – raspberry and cream sponge – it was like a half day at school!

Read: Dublin cafés give out free coffee in protest against Starbucks expansion

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