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A general view of YOLO restaurant and bar in Ennis. Photograph by John Kelly.

Planning decision to impact on Ennis pub’s future?

THE future viability of an Ennis pub/restaurant that employs 40 staff is uncertain, following a decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse the retention and alteration of an outdoor smoking room with a retractable roof.

Derek Gleeson, the owner of Yolo – You Only Live Once – at 40 Abbey Street, Ennis, in response to an enforcement order in March to remove the structure, had applied to Clare County Council to retain and alter the outdoor smoking room at the pub/restaurant with a traditional shop front at the smoking area, in keeping with the other traditional shop front on the premises.

The council refused the development in July and this decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála.

The corner building is a protected structure, dating from the 18th century, and is part of a terrace of listed buildings on Abbey Street, in what is an Architectural Conservation Area.

According to the submission made on behalf of Mr Gleeson, “This bar/restaurant is located between the public car park and the river. Abbey Street was a vibrant business area, containing a hotel, banks, bars, restaurants, shops and offices and some residential units. However, business in Abbey Street has suffered severely in recent years, due to the recession, and currently there are nine shops/businesses closed in this one street alone.

“Yolo attracts people to this area during the day and night and creates much-needed footfall for local businesses, which are struggling in these difficult times – this area is predominantly a business area.”

The applicants argued that the Library Bar, which preceded Yolo as a pub on the premises, had been forced to close partly because of not having a modern smoking room. It was established that there has been permission for a smoking area since 2005 – the only issue being the retractable canopy – and the planning authority should have dealt with this issue in 2003, when permission was granted for a pub on the premises.

They also pointed out that the premises was only put on the protected structures list in September 2013.

“Derek Gleeson maintained his business to a very high standard…he feels that the restrictions imposed by his premises being a listed building and being in an Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) seriously inhibits his ability to run a viable and sustainable business in the premises,” the submission stated.

“He is unable to make even the most minor alterations to his pub/restaurant in the future without incurring substantial fees from conservation consultants, architects, as well as planning fees and levies from the local authority. He has every intention of continuing to maintain the premises to the highest possible standards and would never do anything to detract from the character of the building or area.

“The ongoing difficulties in the licence trade mean that any further impediments to trading caused by the listing of the building and the Architectural Conservation Area could mean that the business is no longer viable and would result in the closure of the pub/restaurant, thus suffering the same fate as many listed buildings in cities and towns throughout Ireland,” the submission noted.

However, An Bord Pleanála, in outlining its decision, stated, “With regard to the protected structure status of the existing building and to the previous alterations and additions which have resulted in an inappropriate front extension with a temporary retractable roof, timber panelling and glazing to the traditional boundary enclosures and oversized columns supporting the roof, which are unsympathetic alterations to the character and setting of the historic building on the site, it is considered that the retention of these alterations, together with the proposed additional pastiche shopfront, would radically alter the front elevation of the main building and forecourt area and would introduce a further inappropriate addition to the building, which would dominate and overwhelm the original historic structure, the cumulative impact of which would adversely affect the character and setting of the protected structure.”

They pointed out that the development proposed for alteration and retention would also detract from the character of the terrace of buildings on Abbey Street, from the character of the ACA and from the setting of several other protected structures in the vicinity, including the Franciscan Friary.

“The development proposed for alteration and retention would, by reason of the nature of the bar/restaurant use which includes a retractable roof over a semi-enclosed outdoor dining terrace, give rise to an increased level of noise and disturbance until late in the evening, which would seriously injure the amenities of the properties in the vicinity,” An Bord Pleanála stated.

By Ron Kirwan

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