Cafe grinds to a halt following unexpected street repairs

Cafe grinds to a halt following unexpected street repairs
The footpath in front of Union Grind on Thursday morning. Picture: Twitter

One of Cork city’s best-known cafés has had its trade badly damaged this week as a result of works taking place outside its door.

Union Grind owner James Donovan said the first he knew of plans to renovate the footpath in front of his business on Union Quay was when contractors arrived on Wednesday morning.

His problems intensified on Thursday morning when he arrived to find the entire area in front of his business dug up, with no signage and no accessway across the uneven surface to allow customers reach his business.

“They arrived yesterday morning and said we are digging up your footpath, we had no knowledge of it,” he told the Echo. “They started putting up barriers and drilling the concrete, and our business collapsed pretty much straight away.

“I had to go out and plead with them to stop drilling at least between one and two so I would get some lunch trade. We prep everything fresh and we had prepped for a busy day, Wednesdays are always busy. I was backed into a corner to agree to close at 3pm so I could have them stop from 1-2pm. They stopped drilling but continued working, there was no signage up and when they are drilling the stone chips are flying 10 feet in the air.” 

With his day’s trade a write off by lunchtime, Mr Donovan sent staff home and he and another business owner went to City Hall. There they were promised signage and gangways in place.

Instead he arrived early on Thursday morning to find the path completely dug up. He again contacted City Hall, who he said were apologetic and worked with the contractors to rectify the situation. But the damage has been done.

The doorway on Union Grind on Thursday morning. Picture: Twitter
The doorway on Union Grind on Thursday morning. Picture: Twitter

“My coffee-to-work is an important trade for me, I open at 7.30am so even though they got the gangway in around 8.30ish, I had lost trade,” he said. “In fairness I have had engineers from City Hall apologise and they have stepped up but … it has been a disaster from start to finish.” 

Mr Donovan has continued to try and negotiate with the workers to get the work done away from busy times, with limited success. The contractors doing the work said a staff member was verbally advised about the work on Monday afternoon but Mr Donovan can find no record of this.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) morning a guy arrived in about 7.15pm with an A4 sheet, that I think was dated the day before, and said we are digging up the footpath,” he said.

Mr Donovan said he did not want to attack City Council staff but was extremely frustrated by the situation.

“I know progress has to happen and I am all for it,” he said. “I told City hall, you are already in a bad place with the city traders and I don’t want to be adding fuel to the fire but you messed me up big time.” 

He also worries about the work continuing into another day’s trading: “Friday is by far our busiest day”.

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