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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
coffee wars

There are 21 Starbucks in Dublin city centre - so what do independent coffee shops think?

We asked them.

BACK IN FEBRUARY, Starbucks quietly opened on Dublin’s Drury Street.

Nestled in between Drury Buildings and Brooks Hotel, it took over the building previously occupied by Raglan, a clothing store and coffee bar that ceased trading in April 2015.

But if it thought it could arrive without making a fuss, it couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, it rubbed a lot of Dubliners up the wrong way entirely.

For many, Starbucks seemed to be wholly at odds with the rest of Drury Street, an area that is home to several independent businesses, including coffee shops like Kaph and Sasha House Petite, and prides itself on being part of Dublin’s Creative Quarter.

In fact, so controversial was the branch’s opening that Councillor Mannix Flynn lodged a complaint with Dublin City Council regarding the signage and the change of use of the outlet.

But perhaps the bigger reason for people’s Starbucks ennui is the sheer ubiquity of Starbucks these days. According to Starbucks’ official website, there are a whopping 49 branches in Dublin.

In the city centre alone — Dublin 1 and Dublin 2 — we put that tally at 21. 

Many have cautioned that Starbucks and its ilk could harm Dublin’s burgeoning coffee culture by driving up city centre rents and forcing existing coffee shops out.

But what do the indie coffee shops think? We asked them.

Clement & Pekoe, South William Street

Located on South William Street, Clement & Pekoe is one of the city’s most popular coffee haunts. Passing by, you’re guaranteed to see hordes of people sitting outside, sipping on their flat whites.

But what does owner Dairine Keogh make of the influx of coffee chains into Dublin?

“Starbucks and other big brand coffee chains trying to dominate, is further proof of the growth of the Coffee market in Ireland and world wide,” she told

They have cleverly borrowed some aspects from independents and brought them into the fit-out of their stores.

From a business perspective, Keogh states that the likes of Clement & Pekoe and Starbucks aren’t vying for the same customers.

Our customers aren’t suddenly going to becoming Starbucks customers, the offerings are completely different.

Instead her concern is that Dublin may get overrun with chains and adversely impact independent businesses that were established during the recession.

“The stark reality is that big chains can drive up rents to a point where these great businesses can’t compete,” she explains. “Should the decision of what lies ahead be solely left in the hands of landlords looking for the highest rent possible?”

She warns that unless provisions are made, Dublin’s Creative Quarter, an area that stretches between South William Street and George Street, risks becoming Grafton Street 2.0.

Grafton Street was a decimated, soulless place a couple of years ago. Walk around the corner to the side streets and there was a flurry of creation and employment, thanks to tax-paying independent businesses. That area has become now known as The Creative Quarter Will it still be here in 5 years? Who is protecting it? Who is in charge of the next chapter of who stays and who goes?


Vice is housed in Wigwam on Middle Abbey Street. Since it opened in January 2013, it has established itself as a sort of haven for coffee nerds. 

It’s also just a stone’s throw away from a number of Starbucks branches, as Tom Stafford tells 

It’s truly surprising how many outlets have opened within a 500 metre radius of our location on Middle Abbey St. Most of these have been within the last eighteen months — Liffey Street, Henry Street, O’ Connell Bridge, North Earl Street, Talbot Street, Temple Bar and the latest on Fade Street.

But while many might perceive this as unwanted competition, Stafford says that he’s unperturbed by their arrival. “I’m not really bothered by Starbucks — they don’t do speciality coffee and about 95% of our customer base probably wouldn’t ever drink coffee from there.”

He says that Starbucks do “coffee for the masses” and says that anyone craving a bespoke coffee experience can sample wares from local coffee shops like Kaph, Love Supreme or Roasted Brown.

If someone wants an orange mocha frappuccino then Starbucks is probably their kinda cafe. If someone wants a coffee that’s prepared by a passionate and caring barista, using freshly roasted and ethically sourced coffee etc, then going to any of the popular independent coffee shops dotted around the city is going to their type of coffee experience.

As for whether measures should be taken to protect Dublin city centre from becoming overrun with chains?

Stafford states that Dublin City Council should be ensuring there’s “a balanced mix of retail and food/drinks vendors in the city centre” and cites Henry Street as a commercial centre in need of more food/drinks outlets.

At the end of the day, however…

Business is business and Starbucks are employing people and creating jobs at the end of the day.


Over the past few years, Coffeeangel has become something of its own little empire with five locations in Dublin city centre.

You might think this would put them in direct competition with Starbucks. Not so, says Karl Purdy.

“I can only speak for Coffeeangel and – aside from the inevitability of global high-street homogenisation – we do not have any issue with the increasing presence of Starbucks,” he tells

I believe increased competition is fantastic at motivating and inspiring innovation. Any increase in competition serves as a great opportunity for Coffeeangel to distinguish itself from one of the world’s most famous brands.

Purdy believes that independent coffee shops are more than capable of competing with coffee chains and can distinguish themselves with “better service, quality coffee and local relevance”.

While more chains might lead to more competition for city centre properties, Purdy states that this is simply a reality of running a business in a “world-class city” and will force businesses to be “creative, innovative and clever”.

So, would Purdy himself drink a cup of Starbucks coffee?

As you can imagine their coffee doesn’t suit my palate… but the world would be infinitely less interesting if we all liked the exactly the same things.

Written by Amy O’Connor and posted on

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