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Let’s hope for a better new Dublin City Chief Executive!

Like at a funeral, when people in Ireland feel it is inappropriate to tell the truth about the person in the coffin, Dublin City Councillors were trying to be find complementing words for the now-retired former Chief Executive of Dublin City, Owen Keegan.

But many of them were probably more leaning towards the “Good Riddance” side than the “What a pity” side.

Without a shadow of a doubt Keegan left a stamp on Dublin City (and on Dun Laoghaire) and many think he caused significantly more damage than good.

He started in 1993 as an Assistant City Manager in Dublin and then became Director of Traffic. Dublin got a break from him when from 2006 until 2013 he was County Manager of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, but reportedly people in Dun Laoghaire celebrated his return to Dublin City 2013, then as Chief Executive. Another 10 years (2013-2023) in Dublin completed his THIRTY year long (questionable) contribution to our city.

Having ZERO accountability to councillors or citizens or inhabitants of Dublin City is the worst possible arrangement. The Chief Executive of the city runs the city in ALL aspects, with the grandiose titled “Lord Mayor” being just a representative figure with no control or influence over anything. It is shocking that we still do not have an elected mayor!!

And when you then get a chief executive (that is selected by the “Public Appointments Service”, which is purely looking for the right CV, not the right passion and ideas) who has his own agenda that he ruthlessly pursues for 10 years, ignoring and overruling the elected City Councillors at every possibility, then it becomes a real good news story when he finally retires.

Deputy chief executive Richard Shakespeare will be in charge now until the Public Appointments Service (not them again!!!) will have selected a new chief executive, who again will have NO democratic mandate to rule our city. At a salary of EUR 200,000 per year, we can be certain that many civil servants will be interested in the job, but despite the high salary, it is unlikely that a talented business leader will get a chance.

www.irishtimes.com/ireland/dublin/2023/09/04/owen-keegan-bows-out-after-10-years-as-dublin-city-council-chief-executive/
and
www.independent.ie/regionals/dublin/dublin-news/dublin-city-council-confirms-date-for-owen-keegan-to-retire-as-ceo/a960772956.html

The Corona Files: Next step of lifting restrictions will NOT be taken

The Corona Files: Next step of lifting restrictions will NOT be taken

The news is out and it is not good!

Pubs will stay closed for AT LEAST another four weeks until 31 August and – let’s face it – it is highly unlikely that anything significant will change in the next three weeks, considering the worldwide Covid situation. So who knows until when they will stay closed.

This obviously also has a significant impact on any live entertainment going forward and will not only leave pub owners and employees in a challenging situation, but will be devastating news for all the musicians that we have in Ireland.

A curfew for restaurants and pubs serving food of 23:00 was introduced as well (takeaways are allowed to stay open longer) and face masks will be mandatory in shops from 10 August.

And if you were hoping that there will be SOME good news elsewhere….not so!

Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, San Marino and Monaco were taken off the green list and seemingly no other countries were added.

The limits for crowds will also stay in place: 50 for indoor events and 200 for outdoor events.

———

And ALL this while we currently only have 448 cases of reported Covid infections in Ireland. If we multiply this by 10 to catch non-reported infections, then we have in the whole country just 4480 active cases. If we assume a population of 4,921,500, you need to meet 1098 (!!) people before you meet ONE Covid sufferer. ?

Can we survive another while without pubs? Sure we can if we have to! But looking at how public health policy is made at the moment, the makers of the rules seem to believe in the fairy tale that Ireland can eradicate the Coronavirus. Does that sound likely to you? What is your guess, when will pubs open? And will we have to cancel Christmas?

(Clarification: The number 448 is the sum of all cases that were reported in the last 14 days and is therefore the number of the cases that can assumed to be still active.)

Pubs, Ireland and the Coronavirus

Pubs, Ireland and the Coronavirus

Important news about the opening of pubs!

It seems that the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), which is part of the HSE, sort of offered a Covid-19 deal and we can only assume/hope that this was discussed with Mr Corona.

The deal is that from 29 June, you will be safe at a 1 meter distance in a pub, as long as you don’t stay longer than 90 minutes.

Indications are that from Minute 91 things get really dangerous!

If we don’t agree to the 90 min deal and we want to stay, say 120 minutes, then the 1 meter deal is off the table and all will go back to 2 metres.

It also seems that if you are not in a pub, you are still in severe danger if the distance to another person is less than 2 meters, no matter how long you meet. Even if you don’t even face the other person and your encounter only lasts a few seconds! Safety outside of pubs (for example in busses) can be achieved with face masks but the 1 meter distance is not applicable there. 2 metres is the minimum (in nearly empty busses.) The deal ONLY applies to pubs!

It also emerged that the Coronavirus can be kept at bay if you eat a meal in a pub for at least EUR 9. If your meal is cheaper than that you are in danger and if you don’t order a meal in the pub at all, you are in mortal danger, so much so that you are not even allowed to enter the pub. It seems though, that there will be no meal supervision, so you are not forced to EAT the meal, you just need to order it. Once ordered (for more than EUR 9!), the virus will know that and will leave you alone.

P.S. Without a doubt, our authorities clearly know what they are doing and have thought it all through!

Bewley’s screwed up, it wasn’t the landlord

Bewley’s screwed up, it wasn’t the landlord

Bewley's Cafe

Bewley’s Cafe will close for good, we found out on 06 May and soon the chorus of “greedy landlord” started together with the wish to save Bewley’s cafe.

But as so often there are some facts that are not clearly obvious that need to be considered:

In a starring role, there is developer and landlord Johnny Ronan and the other main actors are the Campbell Family, who own the Bewley’s Cafes and Campbell Catering.

Johnny Ronan is a hugely successful developer, who has his fingers in nearly all relevant property pies in Dublin. He went down in 2008 and was bailed out by NAMA – or rather by all of us Irish tax payers – and he has recovered like Phoenix from the ashes afterwards. Kudos for his regained success, but it is difficult to “like” someone like that who is only able to make his huge personal gains again because we paid his significant debts. And I would also not be surprised if the tag “greedy” might be totally justified.

Johnny Ronan bought Bewley’s Cafe in Grafton Street from Royal Liver a few years ago and is renting it to the Campbell family for allegedly 1.5mio per year. And it is the public’s opinion that it is this massive rent cost that is the reason for the Bewley’s Cafe closure and because we all seem to love the national treasure that Bewley’s Cafe is seen as – although many of us would NEVER go there for their cofe and pastries! – the conclusion is Landlord = Bad, Tenant = Good!

Not exactly the truth, though!

So what is the real picture:

The Bewley’s family started the Bewley’s company in 1840 and they opened the Cafe in Grafton Street in 1927. They bought the building at some point and owned it. Campbell Catering bought struggling Bewley’s at the end of the 1980s and consequently they owned the building in Grafton Street then and that is where the trouble starts.

To get some money into the company, in their wisdom, the Campbell family decided to sell the Grafton St building and lease it back. It is a silly accounting “trick” that gets you cash in the short term, but ignores that you will pay a big rent over the years, especially if the location is such a prime spot in the main city centre shopping area.

In 2007 then there was a rent review and it seems that the Campbell family was ok with 1.5 mio, but the story continues. Just two years before the rent review Bewley’s closed for a while (they seemed to have done this a number of time in the last few years) and during that time allegedly Zara offered a yearly rent of EUR 2 mio. Not sure if they would have been allowed to do that, but Campbell could have continued paying the rent of 1.5 mio to the landlord and on the other side take 2 mio from Zara. BUT Campbell was not interested in that offer.

The landlord even offered them then 6 mio if they got out! But Campbell was still not interested.

In 2014 Bewley’s closed again for renovation and it remained closed for nearly three (!!) years and a whopping 12 mio was spent on the internal works to turn it from a 180 seat cafe to a 500 seat cafe. (I wrote about the challenge back thenĀ www.joergsteegmueller.com/2017/11/03/bewleys-cafe-has-re-opened-but-will-it-work/).

So you see that the landlord (Johnny Ronan or his company Ickendel) doesn’t deserve any medals for anything they did, but they also are not really the reason why Campbell is closing the Cafe now. Campbell made a number of decisions over the years that could have helped them to leave the seemingly unmanageable burden behind, but they decided against it.

The final decision now is solely Campbell’s responsibility and there is no justification for a “Save Bewley’s campaign” or anything like that. It is pity that Bewley’s Cafe will close, it was an icon in Dublin and will be missed, but I haven’t been in there for many many years, so I didn’t help to keep it open and therefore I can’t complain. I just hope that no Starbucks will move in! We have more than enough of them! :-O

This article outlines some parts of the story:
www.irishtimes.com/business/commercial-property/row-tied-to-20-year-lease-agreed-when-bewley-s-sold-grafton-street-to-raise-cash-1.1852021

 

(The title picture is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license and it was taken by Miguel Mendez.)

 
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