Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fair or Fowl?

There was a time when this was acceptable. When people were eating foie gras for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and nothing was thought of it when a diner dropped €1,000 on a bottle of wine.
There was a time when we expected to be paying what's now seen as stratospheric prices for a good meal, and when city centre landlords knew their tenants were raking it in, and shur, weren't all renters almost expecting their rent to go up in these times?

Those times are long gone.

With the closure of the much loved "Mermaid" restaurant on Dame Street, and the almost cult cafe "Gruel", which adjoined it (it's said their roast rolls were a thing of beauty!) came both a public outcry, but also a gushing of anger and almost resigned frustration that one has become accustomed to with modern Ireland.
You see, it has since came to light that these two premises, on the periphery of Dublin city centre's shopping district, much loved small Irish businesses, had been situated in a building whose rent was valued at €190,000 per annum.

As the Irish Times states, "The award-winning Mermaid and its more casual sister restaurant Gruel ceased trading on December 23rd, having managed to secure only a “tiny” reduction in rent from its landlady. The company behind them is now in liquidation, with the loss of 30 jobs. Mr Harrell (a former owner) said “part of the fabric of Temple Bar” was now gone."

This corner of Dublin, the axis of South George's Street and Dame Street, which should be one of the chicest jewels in the urban crown of our fair city, is now home to, by my estimation, at least 10 unmanned stores.

With economic turmoil, adverse weather, water shortages, unseasonably poor trading conditions, margin cuts and threat from large multinational chains, this is by no means an isolated incident. In fact, respected RAI chief Adrian Cummins said last year that one restaurant per day is closing in this country.
Due to high input costs, high excise costs, high wages and of course high rent, are we looking at the generification of our restaurant  industry, which employs 64,000 people (1 in 4 in the tourism industry) and contributes €2 billion to the economy each year?

Granted, some might say that the industry is behind the times, and some within it running out dated Celtic Tiger business models, with old fashioned ideals, but there is no doubt that indies like Gruel and Mermaid deserve to be applauded for their attempts to be forward thinking, and be aided in this battle to keep jobs, tax revenue and above all creativity alive.

One thing's for sure, if restaurants continue to be bombarded with tax and rent hikes, that one closure per day will soon be higher, until, akin to Grafton St. and it's countless mobile phone shops and convenience stores, all that's left is the faceless big guy.

The following poignant line from the Times piece about the closure is sure to stick in the craw of many within the industry, and indeed anyone who has ever enjoyed a meal in either of the two premises in question:

"The combined rent on the two restaurants at 68 and 69 Dame Street was €190,000. When Mr Harrell and Mr Gorman opened the Mermaid, at number 69, in 1996, the rent was £15,000."

Note: Neither Gruel or Mermaid were or have ever been listed on, or involved with mylunch.ie.

Related Tags: lunch, lunch deals, lunch offers, lunch value, Urban Picnic, FREE LUNCH, lunch competition, lunch in Cork, lunch in Dublin, lunch deals Dublin, lunch in Cork.

No comments:

Post a Comment