Three more city streets have been unveiled as bespoke outdoor dining destinations following the installation of Fáilte Ireland-funded infrastructure in what has been described as a “great improvement for the city” and an initiative that positions Cork as a “destination for foodies”.
Union Quay, Caroline Street and Beasley Street have been architecturally remodelled to better support outdoor hospitality following funding of €1.3 million from Fáilte Ireland.
Parasols, awnings, trees, festoon lighting, windbreaks, and purpose-built planters have been installed.
Local architects were engaged to design streetscapes and worked closely with the council and the traders on each street to develop their designs.
Princes Street, Beasley Street, Pembroke Street and Union Quay are designed by Meitheal Architects while Carr Cotter Naessens Architects designed the Caroline Street scheme.
Other Cork businesses such as Euroforce Engineering and Acme Blind Design have also been involved in the project, creating bespoke infrastructure.
Officially opening the upgraded streets, Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mary Rose Desmond said the enhanced outdoor dining facilities builds on the success of the Princes Street scheme.
“We have to salute their determination and creativity, as they worked with Cork City Council, to achieve funding for these projects,” she added.
The three enhanced city streets form one of the largest projects being delivered under Fáilte Ireland’s Outdoor Dining Scheme, under which 19 Local Authorities are delivering outdoor dining facilities across 39 different locations.
Mary Houlihan, programme manager with Fáilte Ireland, toldthat Fáilte Ireland was “thrilled to be able to fund this scheme and support Cork City Council”.
“Cork City Council have got such ambitious plans to develop Cork into a modern, contemporary, urban centre and this outdoor dining is really going to add in spades to that,” she continued.
Ms Houlihan said she firmly believes the enhanced city streets will “increase the appeal of Cork as a visitor destination for both domestic and international visitors”.
Union Quay features 16 parasols similar to those on Princes Street.
Each premises has a unique colour parasol and windbreaker.
Upgrade works also include festoon lighting, improved pedestrian access, inclusive of wheelchair access and improved resurfaced road surface.
Beverley Matthews, owner of L’Atitude 51 wine bar on Union Quay, said there was a high level of engagement with traders on the street when devising the design concept.
This was echoed by Majella Bradley, co-owner of the adjacent Charlies bar, who added that many hospitality businesses would not have survived during Covid had it not been for outdoor trading.
“A lot of us, because we can only have so many inside, we wouldn’t have survived this period [without outdoor trading].
“We’re very thankful to Fáilte Ireland, City Hall - they have been very good and have listened to everything we had to say.”
Over on Caroline Street, upgrade works include new awnings, parasols, festoon lighting, 11 mature silver birch trees, and new planter units with age friendly seating.
Richard Jacob, co-owner of Idaho café on the street, said the scheme represents a “great improvement for the city”.
“The interesting thing is that before people looked at a street as a way of getting somewhere and now a street is a place to go to. It’s completely changed the way people think about the streets.
“The fact that each street has a different character, makes it so exciting.
Elsewhere in the city, upgrades to Beasley Street include larger awnings, festoon lighting along the centre of the street, giant umbrellas and parasols.
Robert McCarthy, general manager of the Maldron Hotel on the South Mall, said the new infrastructure will enable the hotel to expand its outdoor dining offering.
Mr McCarthy said he believes the city is leading the way when it comes to the al fresco scene.
“I don’t think there’s another place in Ireland that has really embraced the outdoor dining as much as Cork city,” he said.
The improvements to the street were also welcomed by James O'Toole, the soon-to-be manager of a new establishment called Provisions which is set to open next month in the former Brennan’s premises at the junction of Oliver Plunkett Street and Beasley Street.
“It’s going to be high-end pastries, crêpes and cakes, sandwiches hot and cold, lovely salads - everything fresh.
“Two different coffees, dark roast and light roast and specialty coffees of the month and things like that,” he explained.
Mr O’Toole said outdoor dining offers a “whole other revenue” for businesses.
The project to enhance the three city streets was completed in just six months.
“We turned it around in about six months which was incredibly quick, considering Princes Street which is of a similar scale, took a year and three months,” Fergus Gleeson, senior engineer with Cork City Council said.
“We had a strict timeline to work within due to the funding available.
Fearghal Reidy, director of services with Cork City Council said the scheme adds to the vibrancy of the city and positions Cork as a “destination for foodies”.
“It also brings footfall into the city which is great because retailers and other businesses will benefit as well,” he added.
Cork City Council has said similar works will be completed on Pembroke Street in the coming months.