09 Aug 2022

Café culture in Louth a welcome addition says CEO

Louth County Council February meeting

Café culture in Louth a welcome addition says CEO

Café culture in Louth a welcome addition says CEO

Louth Chief Executive Joan Martin has said that she believes the parklets installed in Dundalk and other towns in Louth for outdoor dining have been a welcome addition to the county and would like to look at the beneficial impact of them and "how we maintain that and how we build on that café culture", emerging in the county.

Ms Martin was speaking at the Louth County Council February, in response to a query by Councillor Edel Corrigan. Cllr Corrigan asked what the situation will be in Louth with regards funding for the parklets that were installed in Dundalk and coming to an end. 

Cllr Corrigan asked if the assistance available to local businesses for the installation of the parklets, as well as for the licences to install the parklets, would continue.

In response, Director of Services, Catherine Duff said that the funding of the parklets came from central government. She explained that the parklets are owned by the council and there was an application process for businesses where they got the section 254 licences to install and maintained them. She added that she would envisage that might stay in place and that the assistance regarding the fees for the section 254 licences would be extended for another period of time.

Cllr Corrigan also enquired if, with the return to business, the parking spaces where the parklets are situated, would no longer be available. 

The chief executive then spoke on the matter, saying she would have shared Cllr Corrigan's concerns at the time about the loss of parking spaces, but added that she didn't think they actually lost a huge number of parking spaces in the initiative, but added that she thinks it is something that they would look at.

Ms Martin went on to say that her general view of the parklets and the outdoor dining facilities in the county,, "is that they have been a huge welcome addition to the county" and that the the standard of what was put in place by Director of Services Catherine Duff and Senior Engineer Mark Johnston and their team was been very high.

She went on to say that "in terms of the whole café culture, having a county that looks more welcoming to the kind of cosmopolitan population that we now have. People that come to live in Ireland from countries across Europe are much more used to this outside café culture style of living and it feels probably much more familiar."

Ms Martin added that she feels the Market Square in Dundalk has become "a hive of activity, not just with the use of the outdoor dining facilities but people using the space and children enjoying the water fountain. So I think they have brought a lot to the county and they're something I think we'll have to consider in the future", she adds.

She continued, "going back to Dundalk, and the work that was done on Clanbrassil Street, we very deliberately created a number of what I fondly call plazas – big seating areas, like down near St Nicholas's Church or the new space there outside the Green Church and on the other side of the road." She said that these type of spaces help give an international look to our towns and would like to assess the whole initiative to see what has worked and what hasn't and see what might be done.

Ms Martin finished by saying that "despite an initial concern about car parking, my overriding view of them is they have been a huge addition and brought an awful lot to the county and have improved our towns and our town centres and our streetscapes."

Cllr Maria Doyle agreed with the chief executive's comments, saying that in Dundalk "that the overall outdoor dining experience in the last year has been a really good plus". She added that she agreed with Cllr Corrigan's comments and they would need to ensure that the parklets are maintained against wear and tear. Cllr Doyle said they should also carry out an audit on them to see which ones are working and which are not. 

She added that she would like to "congratulate individual business owners also who have done a lot, who don't have parklets even, but have done a lot to bring that outdoor dining experience to make people comfortable who didn't want to eat indoors." 

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