Nash 19 restaurant on Princes St, which closed its doors last week. Photo: Nash 19

Intervention needed as 4 city restaurants close

There have been calls for the Government to intervene after two further restaurants closed in Cork city centre during the past week, sparking fears of further closures in the coming months.

There was widespread shock with the announcement that Nash 19 was to close its doors last Friday. Situated on Princes St, the much-loved restaurant had been in business for 33 years.

The spiralling cost of doing business forced its founder Claire Nash to shut down the popular restaurant, with the loss of 20 jobs.

Last Saturday the White Rabbit Bar and BBQ on MacCurtain St also announced that it is to close on 4 February, after nine years in business.

This is the fourth restaurant closure in the city centre since 1 January. Tung-Sing on Patrick St in operation since 1963, served its final meal to customers on 6 January, while Pigalle Kitchen on Barrack Street, in business since 2019, also closed its doors.

Earlier this week, news also emerged that liquidators are to be appointed to Electric bar and restaurant, which is owned by Ernest Cantillon. The premises had been for sale since last year.

The Cork Business Association (CBA) welcomed Tánaiste Micheál Martin’s intervention earlier this week, where he commented that the Government would examine allowing businesses to pay back warehoused tax debts over a 10 year period.

Currently more than 5,500 restaurants, cafés, pubs and other hospitality businesses currently owe warehoused tax debt as part of the Revenue Commissioner’s scheme which expires in May.

However, CBA Finance Spokesperson and Tax Partner with Quintas, Dave O'Brien, stressed the urgency for an additional 12 months of interest-free deferment in debt repayments, due to commence in May of this year.

O'Brien emphasised the crucial role of businesses in Cork city's continued improvement and called for an urgent meeting with the Minister for Finance to address these pressing issues.

In a statement, the CBA said: "The Government now need to stand up for the businesses in which we all visit and use on a daily basis. We need these businesses to ensure Cork city can continue to improve."

The Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) urged the Government to revert the lower rate of VAT of 9 per cent. “If the Government truly wants to secure a viable and sustainable future for our industry, it will have to reinstate the 9% VAT rate for small, independent food-led businesses,” they said.

“The 9% VAT rate is the right rate for our industry and will provide businesses with the breathing room needed to survive the sky-high costs they currently face and thrive in the future. Everything else will merely be a case of papering over the cracks,” they added.

This sentiment has been echoed by Christopher O’Sullivan Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South West, who said: “The rough cost to the exchequer of a food only reduction to 9% would be €500m. Seems like a lot. But I’d imagine the cost of business closures is far greater.”

Independent TD Michael Collins has called for an emergency mini budget to help prevent further business closures.

“What small business owners are now experiencing is the completely foreseeable consequences of this Government’s determination to push ahead with the removal of supports such as the reduced VAT rate of 9%,” said Deputy Collins.

“Even with the best will in the world, the current climate is just not sustainable for the owners of these businesses as their input costs continue to rise and their profit margins continue to shrink,” he said.