SMALL businesses in Cork don’t have the luxury of being an experiment.
That was the message from one city trader, who said that City Hall needs to be flexible about new transport measures in Cork.
It is ten weeks since the introduction of the new car ban on Patrick Street, between 3pm and 6.30pm, and it remains controversial, with some suggesting it has resulted in a better environment and others insisting that it has caused trade to dwindle.
Bus Éireann confirmed that passenger numbers on the city network increased by 101,000 in September 2018, versus the same month last year, while numbers on the 208 and 205 services are up 28% and 30%.
The figures follow a City Hall release, last week, which showed footfall increases on streets, too.
However, city businesses are still nervous, according to John Minihan, owner of Minihan’s pharmacy, on Oliver Plunkett Street.
Mr Minihane said he agrees with the aim of the plans, but implored City Hall to be open to tweaks.
“We all want it to work,” Mr Minihan said.
“Nobody has an issue with the ultimate objective; we just need people to be able to tweak and review when it is necessary. My question is whether the concerns of small traders are being taken on board. We haven’t got the luxury of being an experiment.”
Mr Minihan said that the coming weeks will tell many businesses the full scale of the impact.
“August is quieter, because people are on holidays, and September is heavily dictated by back-to-school spend. October is the first normal month and now people are figuring out whether they need to buy more or less Christmas stock,” he said.
“The social, cultural, and economic heart of Cork is in the centre. We can’t sell Cork on these merits to big businesses and then undermine what we are selling by not supporting it. We haven’t time to wait and see.”
Eddie Vaughan, owner of Bean & Leaf Coffee Co, said that there has been no change at his branch on Grand Parade. However, the trends are different throughout the city, he added.
“We have a stall, called Fruit Boost, in the English Market, and my feeling there is footfall is down. We could be down 20% on the same month last year,” Mr Vaughan said.
“Anecdotally, the staff would say the afternoon seems quieter, but it is an imprecise science, because it always feels quieter after the summer”.