One business is fighting plans to turn a famous Donnybrook grocer into 'yet another café'

A local fishmonger says the south Dublin area has hit peak coffee shop.

By Conor McMahon Deputy editor, Fora

PLANS TO TURN a decades-old former greengrocers into a café would “diminish” Dublin’s Donnybrook because the area is already saturated with coffee shops, it has been claimed.

Earlier this year, the city council granted planning permission for a company called Relay Group Ltd to turn the former Roy Fox grocery into a coffee shop-restaurant.

The group is also planning to build an extension onto the first floor of the property and make changes to its iconic shopfront signage and canopy.

The old fruit and vegetable business was once at the forefront of commerce in the area, importing exotic fruits, herbs and spices.

It was passed down from friends and through three generations of a family, but closed its doors in January after more than 80 of trading because it couldn’t keep up in the price war against the supermarket behemoths.

However, the owner of a now-closed fishmonger next door to the property has rallied against Relay Group’s plans in an appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

Carew Kelly Architects prepared a report, which was submitted to the national planning board on behalf of Miriam Molloy, the proprietor of the old Molloy’s fish shop next door.

The seafood business shuttered in June of this year, six months after the death of Molloy’s husband and second-generation fishmonger, Peter.

‘Yet another coffee shop’

In the appeal, the architecture firm described the renovation project as “very poorly designed”, “bizarre” and “overbearing”.

“This building is a simple red brick building, carefully designed to its corner location with some subtle brick detailing, which is of its time,” it said.

The grounds of the appeal included the claim that changing the premises from “a much-loved, landmark food store selling all sort of breads vegetables, food ingredients etc to yet another coffee shop will diminish the retail offering in Donnybrook”.

The complainant believes that the south Dublin district “really does not need yet another place to drink coffee – there are at least four coffee shops within approximately 100m, two of them literally around the corner”.

The objection also highlighted the fact that “even the Spar has a coffee drinking area” and there are number of pubs in the area that offer a cup of Joe.

Carew Kelly Architects also voiced concerns over the fact that the shop could ultimately be developed into a Starbucks café, although there is nothing in the planning application to suggest that is the case.

“The loss of such a quirky and individual shop to be replaced by what may well turn out to be yet another Starbucks is as depressing as it is inevitable,” it claimed.

“Given the recent protests by independent coffee shop owners about Starbucks, this point is even more pertinent now than it was at the time (of the planning approval).”

Relay Group Ltd, an entertainment outfit that was incorporated in 1977, has been involved in the development of at least one other café in Dublin city in recent years.

In 2012, it successfully secured permission from the local council to change a protected structure in Drumcondra from an unoccupied retail unit into a coffee shop. Today, the building is occupied by the Lovely Food Company.

The case involving the Donnybrook unit is to set to be decided by An Bord Pleanála by 8 February.

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