One of Grafton Street's most iconic establishments, Bewley's, last night announced it was closing its doors for good because of the coronavirus, laying off 110 staff in the process.
Like all restautrants and cafes, Bewley's is unable to trade because of the lockdown restrictions.
The cafe pays €1.5 million in rent per annum, and according to reports in the Irish Times, management had been unable to receive a rent amnesty from the building managers during the Covid-19 crisis. Bewley's lease the building from RGRE Graftn Limited, which is run by Irish property developer Johnny Ronan.
It had reopened in 2017 after 1000 days shut for renovation.
Cól Campbell, Bewley's Managing Director, wrote a statement staff that was seen by the Irish Times:
“Taking into consideration all of the information currently available to us, there is a real likelihood that the cafe will generate substantial and unsustainable losses into the future, and we need to take urgent steps to address that situation,” Mr Campbell’s note to staff, seen by The Irish Times, states.
“It is with profound regret that . . . in this situation it is likely to be necessary to permanently close the cafe in the coming weeks.”
There was widespread anger on social media last night over the news.
— Marty Whelan (@martylyricfm) May 7, 2020
Bewley’s is core to Dublin’s fabric, it is the one of those vital social spaces that makes Dublin unique and why our city so often has the intimate feeling of a vibrant lively town. The community of DublinTown businesses needs #Bewleys . There is a resolution to be found. pic.twitter.com/D31JiWEdhq
— weareDublinTown (@weareDublinTown) May 6, 2020
Please don't turn Grafton St Bewleys into another Starbucks ☕
— Dr Laura Watson (@lauracwatson) May 6, 2020
Sinn Fein TD Chris Andrews said:
"The news this evening that Bewleys of Grafton Street is to close will come as a massive blow to the 110 workers at Bewleys and their families, and my thoughts are with all of those concerned at this very difficult time.
"Bewleys has been an iconic feature on Grafton Street for over one hundred years, and whilst it has had a difficult period in recent years, its loss will be felt by Dubliners and visitors to the city alike.
"Unfortunately, I have had similar representations from traders in Dublin City who are struggling to afford sky-high rents at a time when they have no income coming through the doors; which seems to be a major contributory factor in the closure of Bewleys. I would urge the government to begin tackling this issue without delay before other firms go to the wall.
"It is extremely stressful for any worker to lose their job at any time, but right now - in the midst of a pandemic and when other employment opportunities are limited - and when people are really struggling, it is a double blow. Measures need to be put in place immediately to help these workers and their families at this very difficult time."
Other Dublin landlords have been more sympathetic in granting rent reduction during the crisis.
There were also calls to preserve the building's legendary Harry Clarke stainglass paintings.
With the closure of Bewleys on Grafton St it’s vital that the Harry Clarke Windows are confiscated by the state before they are damaged or sold abroad. Given government monies handed over, over the decades, its mad they don’t belong to the National Gallery as part of our heritage pic.twitter.com/kyBzL4vnFq
— Dr Robert Bohan Artist (@RobertBohan) May 6, 2020