The company behind Waterford's largest nightclub and several bars has criticised the council for refusing to allow the continued use of outdoor areas for a number of its venues, after introducing them during the pandemic.
The Causeway Group said it finds the decision "unusual and unfair", adding it has come at an "incredibly difficult time" for the hospitality industry amid rising energy and stock costs.
It said it has spent approximately €275,000 on outdoor seating areas for the three affected venues and claimed the removal of seating at one venue will "result in the loss of 45 full and part time jobs".
Waterford City and County Council refused the retention of two corrugated roofs at adjoining licensed premises at John Street — Factory Night Club and Woodman Bar — ruling it would cause a noise disturbance and detract from amenities in the area.
The development is located off a busy junction with late bars and takeaways dotting each corner, and is down the road from the Apple Market, a roofed area classed as Waterford's urban quarter.
A spokesman said it invested in the outdoor seating areas in a bid to "make our premises as safe as possible for our customers" during the pandemic.
"This was done with the consent and support of Waterford City & County Council at a time when many other premises in Waterford City Centre were being supported with the addition of additional seating areas, and in some cases, the closure of roads.
"Despite there being no objections from members of the public, Waterford City & County Council refused the application."
Food and cocktail bar
The other affected venue is Pinks Restaurant, a Tex-Mex food and cocktail bar, located in nearby Railway Square.
This has been allowed to remain as a hot food restaurant but only if it loses its outdoor seating area, which at present is protected by a canopy roof and windbreakers, because the council deemed these to "seriously injure" the visual amenities presented by a small public park found beside the restaurant.
The company slammed this decision in a statement: "If Pinks's outdoor area, which accounts for 50% of the restaurant’s seating capacity, is forced to close, the restaurant will no longer be viable and will have to close. This will result in the loss of 45 full and part-time jobs.”
The Causeway Group (CWG), which employs approximately 300 people and is run by Waterford businessman Sean Johnston, has appealed both decisions to An Bord Pleanála.
The spokesman added that outdoor facilities have become integral for many venues, with "customers consistently showing their preference for eating outdoors in a safe and secure environment".
He continued: "The Causeway Group has appealed this decision because we find it as unusual as it is unfair. This is an incredibly difficult time for the hospitality industry with energy prices rising inordinately, in addition to staffing and stock costs."
A spokeswoman for Waterford City & County Council stressed that it is supportive of "appropriately located outdoor seating areas" to enhance urban areas.
It noted these are provided through licensing for seating in public areas, whereas the Causeway Group's application was to place outdoor seating in private settings.
"Waterford City & County Council will continue to ensure that the delivery of outdoor seating areas will be achieved whilst ensuring that there is not a negative impact on universal accessibility and pedestrian movements, thus ensuring a vibrant urban area that is accessible to all."