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Restaurant owners claim sandwich board ban is not working and unfairly targeting their sector

New figures show just one licence has been issued since its introduction four months ago.

Image: RollingNews.ie

RESTAURANT OWNERS IN Dublin claim a controversial scheme to restrict sandwich boards in the city is not working after new figures show just one licence has been issued since its introduction four months ago.

They also claim enforcement of the scheme is unfairly targeting the food sector.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland has questioned how the scheme is paying for itself when it has received just over €3,600 since September in licence fees and fees to recover seized sandwich boards.

The council’s chief executive, Owen Keegan, has issued instructions that “zero tolerance” is to be shown to anyone using unauthorised street furniture and the local authority hired four additional inspectors in 2019 to carry out increased enforcement levels of regulations.

A total of 149 boards have been seized from outside 132 businesses over the period with 22 owners paying fees totalling €2,771 to get them back.

Council officials have also issued 550 warning notices to business owners that they risk having their sandwich boards seized.

However, only seven applications for a licence to display a sandwich board on a public footpath have been made to the council, with only one licence being granted to date.

It was granted to Basecamp, a sports equipment store on Jervis Street.

An annual licence costs €630.

The council has also advised the owners of 53 premises that they require planning permission for their use of a sandwich board on private property.

RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins, claimed enforcement of the scheme has been concentrated on the city centre rather than all parts of the local authority’s administrative area including suburbs, and appeared to be targeting restaurants, bars and cafés in particular.

“Other types of retailers don’t seem to be getting the same level of attention,” said Cummins.

‘Dictatorship style’

The RAI has criticised the lack of consultation carried out by the council before the scheme was introduced in September and claimed it was evidence of a “dictatorship style in senior management”.

Cummins claimed fees required to be paid by restaurants to have “street furniture” such as tables and chairs outside their premises were being used as another form of taxation on the sector.

“Dublin City Council has no interest in making Dublin a vibrant, café-style, tourist-friendly city,” he added. “The fees for sandwich boards is not good for the economy of the city”.

Cummins claimed owners of some premises were using a “loophole” in the regulations by using other equipment like barrels instead of sandwich boards to advertise their business.

There is a total ban on sandwich boards in architectural areas of conservation such as Grafton Street as well as outside listed buildings and areas with restricted footpath widths.

Boards not reclaimed by their owners are being donated to “worthy causes”. The council said it had to date passed on sandwich boards to men’s sheds groups and tidy towns committees for recycling.

Dublin City Council said it was satisfied that the licensing system was achieving its objective by removing street clutter.

“The campaign was never designed to be an income generator for the council,” a spokesperson said.

She said all staff engaged in enforcement also had other duties.

The council said it had carried out enforcement across large areas of the city and all types of businesses.

About the author:

Seán McCárthaigh

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