Limerick Coffee unit to cease trading

Irish Examiner

Breen Curtin of Blackbird Coffee, Limerick. Picture: Brian Arthur

MON, 15 FEB, 2021 – 20:30NICOLE GLENNON

Limerick’s coffee truck traders are stuck in a game of “cat and mouse” with Limerick City and County Council, with traders seeking a licence that “isn’t there”.

The popular coffee trucks, which have popped up in Raheen and along the popular Three Bridges walking route in Limerick, have been told to cease trading by the council as they do not have a casual trading license and are not operating in a designated casual trading area.

Andrew Moloney of the Hook & Ladder chain of cafes in Limerick, Waterford and Clare, who operates one such coffee truck, said he’s frustrated as “there’s no way I can apply for planning permission” for the unit.

it is “ridiculous” that the council “cannot look the other way,” he said, adding he is aware of similar operations operating in other counties without hassle.

“We have six or seven locations that have now built up historical debt [due to Covid restrictions]. Positively, we invested in this coffee truck last year, and it’s been our bread and butter.” 

Breen Curtin, who launched his Blackbird Coffee mobile coffee truck after losing his job as a result of the pandemic, said he feels he is in a game of “cat and mouse” with the council with no clear answer as to what he needs to be allowed to legally operate.

Mr Curtin, who has ceased operations at present, said he’s in a position now whereby if he opens in the morning he’s “in trouble”. 

“But I have bills to pay, I’ve leasing contracts, and I’ve two people working for me,” he said.

“The only thing we’re not doing is not paying rates, which we’ve offered to pay. Let [the council] come up with a sum for us and we’ll pay it.

It’s not a negative thing we’re doing, and it’s been turned into a negative thing. It’s young entrepreneurs starting businesses, employing people, providing a product that’s in demand and it’s a successful business that’s been stopped.”

On Monday, Independent councillor Elisa O’Donovan brought a motion to Limerick Council to extend event casual trading licences during Covid restrictions to facilitate rate-paying businesses to operate outdoor trade in specified areas.

However, the motion could not move forward and Ms O’Donovan was advised the proposal to extend casual trading licences to rate-paying businesses only is not provided for in the law, could be both “illegal and discriminatory”, and would likely be subject to “challenge under competition law”.

In addition, Kieran Lehane, the council’s director of service operations advised that the current Covid advice recommends strongly against unnecessary gatherings, which this proposal could “inadvertently facilitate”.

The casual trading bylaws will, however, be referred to the Economic Development, Enterprise and Planning SPC for review.