Planning row over Melody canopy creates disharmony with Council in Limerick

Melody restaurant in Foxes Bow in Limerick City.

THE OWNERS of a Limerick restaurant say they may end up having to close their business if an issue over planning permission isn’t resolved.

Cian Frawley and Andrew O’Donoghue, the owners of Melody Limerick, a restaurant based in Foxes Bow in Limerick City, fear closure if an agreement isn’t reached between them and Limerick City and County Council planning officials over a canopy that was erected over the restaurant’s outside dining area.

The perspex canopy was erected during the Covid-19 pandemic when restaurants were forced to operate under strict guidelines which, at one point, stipulated that only outdoor dining would be allowed.

Speaking to the Limerick Post, Mr Frawley claimed that, at the time, the Council didn’t engage with the restaurant and the “general attitude” was that they were left to their own devices.

Now, with no planning permission for the canopy, Mr Frawley says his business may need to close if he cannot sit customers outside.

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“When we were told that dining had to be outside, they were putting up canopies and this, that, and the other, and we tried our best to contact them and ask them would they help us out because obviously we couldn’t leave anyone into the premises and we couldn’t open,” Cian explained of his interactions with the Council.

“They didn’t really engage with us whatsoever when it came to it, and we basically were told and felt that we were left to our own devices.”

“We knew that if we built a structure that was from the ground up that we would need planning. However, at the time, it was just a free for all. There was no one around, there was no one to answer to, so we put up the canopy.”

Cian said that he and Andrew O’Donoghue put as much thought into the design of the canopy as they could, using UV-resistant perspex, claiming that a retractable canopy wasn’t an option due to the size of the space.

“I’ve tried to engage with the Council to sort it out, I’ve asked them can we sit down and talk to them,” Cian says.

The local restauranteur also believes he is being targeted by a “smear campaign” locally, with complaints also being voiced around loud music coming from the laneway restaurant.

“What we have is a petition and signatures from everyone in the lane to say they love what we’re doing. They love that we’re bringing the people into Foxes Bow, they have no problem with our music, and there’s no problem with our lovely canopy,” Cian said.

Cian believes the Council’s decision is “disgraceful”, and claims that in the three years of running the business, he has yet to make a profit.

Due to the size of the building that Melody operates from, Cian says that adding more tables inside is simply not an option.

“We can’t survive without having that seating out there covered because our overheads are so big that we can’t jig those tables upstairs more than we’re jigging them, so it’s essential.”

The Melody owners also installed wooden gates outside their premises, which they claim have served to reduce anti-social behaviour in the laneway. They stated that fellow Foxes Bow residents have said they felt threatened in the lane on previous occasions.

“Before we put that up and put the gates in, there was people injecting heroin in the lane.

“Our next door neighbour has been held at knifepoint, so the fact that we’ve moved in there, we’ve changed the whole lane for the better.”

The owners of Melody say they are seeking a meeting with Council officials to come to an agreement over the canopy, which they admit they do not have planning permission for.

In a statement to the Limerick Post, Limerick City and County Council said it operates “an open engagement policy” for businesses and members of the business community.

“Limerick City and County Council has an open engagement policy in relation to proposals for development across our city centre and is happy to facilitate a meeting with any individual or member of the business community,” a spokesman said.

The spokesman added that “the Council does not comment on any individual planning applications.”