RESTAURANTS and more independent Irish businesses on the main street of Cork City is what Patrick Street trader Eddie Mullins would like to see as the inner city reshapes itself following a number of high profile closures in recent weeks.
The trader made his remarks as Clarks shoe shop announced the closure of their city centre store, joining Monsoon, Accessorise, Debenhams, and others in leaving the street.
The Oasis store on Cork’s main street is currently holding an everything-must-go liquidation sale before it too will close.
Clarks have said they will continue to operate their Mahon Point store.
Mr Mullins, who runs Fitzgerald Menswear, said in many cases it was issues within companies that caused these businesses to leave Patrick Street and a number of UK companies were using the Covid crisis as an opportunity to exit the market.
“When the city renews itself, new companies will come,” the trader said. “We must accept change, nothing is forever. Companies grow strong, companies grow weak.” In terms of what Mr Mullins would like to see on the street, the trader said it was time to rethink the rules and look at the situation with fresh eyes.
“I’ve been on the street 20 years and like a phoenix, the street will bounce back. Businesses are always closing, it is being highlighted now because of Covid. The properties won’t be idle for long.” Mr Mullins said start-ups need to be given a chance and perhaps landlords needed a “dose of reality”.
“We need to encourage independent, Irish business on the street. I would like to see more of a mix, more restaurants, ethnic foods, I think there is a lot of work to be done there.” The Patrick Street trader said maybe it was time to rethink the ban on restaurants on the street.
“We need to look at the situation with fresh eyes. Look at Princes street. That is something that was not possible last year. It is exciting and it works. Why can’t we look at this again, maybe an opportunity to put restaurants on the street.
“We had restaurants in the ‘50s, no reason we can’t get back to that again.”
City centre councillor Sean Martin, who is head of the Strategic Policy Committee for economic development in the city said Cork needs to rethink its retail strategy and suggested a taskforce be set up to analyse the options available.
“We have to reinvent ourselves, the old model has failed. We need to bring retailers back to the city. We need to learn from the lessons of what has happened. We need a vision for the city.” Mr Martin added.
Mr Martin also said that the suburbs are saturated with retail centres that were causing the city centre to suffer.
“I’m hearing retail is difficult at the minute. Infrastructure needs to be put in place to safeguard the city, we need to look at what we can do to help.”