Legal battle may close Bewley's Café

Ireland’s most famous café is facing a legal battle for survival for the second time in two years, it was confirmed today.

Bewley’s Café, which has served coffee to Dublin’s great and good for seven decades on Grafton Street, has been stirring controversy since it shut down for a time in 2004.

After the original operators initially pulled out, saying the business was no longer viable, the Irish Government, the city’s council, the state’s heritage body and campaigners were embroiled in the row over its future.

The “Oriental” coffee house was first opened in 1927 and has become part of the fabric of the capital city’s cultural and political history, famed as a meeting place for poets, writers and leaders.

But its illustrious past could come to an end during a High Court battle between Bewley’s and its landlord, Treasury Holdings, expected to begin next month.

It is understood the prime allegations in the case will be that Bewley’s sub-let part of the business and carried out renovations contrary to the lease.

Entrepreneur Jay Bourke runs two restaurants, Café Bar Deli and Mackerel, in the building after a deal struck between himself and Bewley’s secured the café’s reopening in May 2005.

In a statement today, Bewley’s said it would aggressively defend itself against allegations that it had broken the terms of the lease on the building on Dublin’s top shopping thoroughfare.

“The landlord is alleging that Bewley’s is in breach of its obligations under the lease of the Grafton Street premises, and is seeking the forfeiture of Bewley’s lease, with the result that Bewley’s would no longer be able to trade from the premises it has occupied since 1927,” the company said.

The latest row follows earlier legal proceedings taken by Treasury Holdings to prevent Bewley’s carrying out work on the building ahead of its reopening in 2005.

But after a short-lived temporary injunction, the High Court threw out the application, ruling that the renovation would enhance the building and did not require planning permission.

Bewley’s claims it previously rejected a €6m offer from the landlord two years ago for the Grafton Street lease.

“Bewley’s has confirmed that it will aggressively defend the current proceedings as it has successfully done in the past and is committed to maintaining its business and presence on Grafton Street,” the company said.

“Bewley’s acknowledges the strong support and goodwill it has received from employees, customers and the many other interested parties in the Grafton Street premises and business.”

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