Sinn Féin spokesperson for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Imelda Munster TD has today said that the closure of Bewley’s on Grafton Street is a devastating blow for its workers and for the city.
She added that the closure highlights the vulnerable position many businesses have found themselves in during the COVID-19 lockdown due to onerous overheads, in particular, rent.
Deputy Munster said: “110 people lost their jobs last night during what is already an extremely difficult time. This will come as a devastating blow to staff and to their families.
“Bewley’s has been operating for almost 100 years on Grafton Street and the closure of the iconic café and the theatre space upstairs is a huge loss to our capital city.
“The issue here is unmanageable rent. We need radical action by government to ensure that SMEs are not forced to fold during this period due to landlords demanding rent that businesses simply can’t pay at the moment as a result of the lockdown restrictions.
“The government has a responsibility to ensure that businesses, who have been forced to close for weeks on end through no fault of their own, are protected during this time.
“This case also highlights the power that corporate landlords wield over the very fabric of our cities.
“According to media reports quoting a note to staff from the Managing Director, Bewley’s landlord, the Ronan Group, did not offer a rent reduction, despite the forced temporary closure of the business and, when rent was withheld for the April to June period, the business received a 21-day statutory demand from the landlord demanding the wind-up of the cafe.
“The government needs to get a grip on the matter of rent or we will lose thousands of businesses in the coming months.
“Corporate landlords will have to shoulder their fair share of the burden and we know that some will not do that voluntarily.
“In fact, some corporate landlords were happy to receive enormous bailouts during the recession, yet they are very slow to ease the burden experienced by other businesses during this crisis.
“The government has to introduce measures to deal with debt of this type immediately or the consequences will be dire for thousands of SMEs working in retail, hospitality and tourism.”