'I can see Cork being the next Amsterdam': Businesses welcome 'golden opportunity' to transform city 

'I can see Cork being the next Amsterdam': Businesses welcome 'golden opportunity' to transform city 

Caroline Street is one of five streets to be transformed into a winter outdoor dining destination under the plans.  Image: Cotter Naesson 

FIVE streets in Cork City are to be transformed into winter outdoor dining destinations in a move which Lord Mayor of Cork Colm Kelleher said will “bolster the city’s growing reputation as a destination for outdoor dining and hospitality”.

Funding of €1.3m is being provided under Fáilte Ireland’s weatherproofing and dining enhancement scheme, which will see a new weatherproofing infrastructure put in place on Princes St, Caroline St, Pembroke St, Beasley St, and Union Quay by early November to enable winter and summer outdoor dining.

Architects were engaged to design streetscapes, providing a unique identity for each street and an improved city centre experience. They have been working closely with Cork City Council and the traders on each street to develop their designs.

Intended to last for a minimum of five years, the weatherproofing infrastructure will include parasols, awnings, windbreaks, heaters, festoon lighting, and purpose-built planters.

'A vote of confidence'

The news has been described as “a vote of confidence” in city centre businesses.

“I can actually see us being the next Amsterdam,” said one Cork bar manager.

The manager of El Fenix on Union Quay, Steve Dwyer, said the weatherproofing scheme is a “golden opportunity” for business.

Union Quay reimagined under the plans. Image: Meitheal Architects. 
Union Quay reimagined under the plans. Image: Meitheal Architects. 

“People have already been thoroughly enjoying the outdoor seating and it has taken off far more than what our vision could ever have been,” said Mr Dwyer.

“It has put us back on the map, it’s really good for business, and we’re all after linking together and all look out for each other and it’s after bringing people so much closer.”

He said he “can’t wait” for plans to be finalised and put in place and that outdoor dining “is the way for the city to go over the next few years”.

“I can actually see us being the next Amsterdam, it’s going that way,” said Mr Dwyer.

The owner of Idaho Café on Caroline St, Richard Jacob, said the funding is “a vote of confidence” in Cork City.

He said the long-term commitment to improving the city’s streets is “making Cork more [of] an all-year-round destination for both home tourism and incoming tourism”.

He said the development of Caroline St will see him seat about 40 people outdoors, compared to the 12 people the cafe could seat outdoors pre-pandemic, with a further 30 indoors.

Mr Jacob said it will not be just the eateries on the street that will benefit as the plan is to have a 4m-wide walkway up the middle for those who may be taking a walk through the city or are in the city to shop.

“It makes a lovely boulevard out of the street and it’s a huge improvement,” said Mr Jacob.

He said the development will bring the street to life “instead of just being an empty loading bay” and that he looks forward to what will be “a very exciting time for the city”.

'New life' in the city 

Paul Walsh, of 3 Little Piggies, said outdoor dining has “injected new life into the city centre and has created a vibe that hasn’t existed in the city centre for near enough 20 years”.

Cork Business Association president Eoin O’Sullivan said the funding has come at the right time and that the scheme is the answer to the big worry of moving into the colder months after a successful summer of outdoor dining.

“Now that we’ll have a lot more streets weatherproofed just in time for Christmas is another boost for the city centre,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

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