Onward And Upward-Only



Bewley’s Café, Grafton Street, Dublin 2

The permanent closure of Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street in Dublin due to a combination of financial pressures has attracted much media attention in recent days.

It is most likely that many further closures will occur in the near future, and the enormity of the challenge of recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 recession is now coming into sharp relief.

Memories of the last recession are still fresh and one of its greatest effects was on retail businesses and services.

These effects had visible expression in the great extent of shuttered premises along many business streets and the consequent atmosphere of dereliction and neglect, which no amount of high-quality paving and planting could offset.

During this period much attention was paid to problems with high rents on business premises, and in particular to upward-only rent reviews.

Even when excessive rents resulted in closures, many institutions and landlords seemed prepared to accept this.

Options of abolishing upward-only rent reviews were examined but it was advised that, without constitutional change, this could be done only for new leases.

I cannot say how much has been learned from the last recession. In normal times the legal framework governing leases, defaults, relettings, etc, appears to work in a broadly satisfactory manner, but the current problems surely require much more radical action, with the underlying aim of enabling viable businesses to be restarted as soon as possible.

Whatever changes are needed to the legislative framework, the implementation of these should be readily achievable in the current climate.

Significant contributions from public funds are likely to be part of the solution but all other stakeholders will have to suffer some pain, with institutional investors and owners of large retail centres having to play their part.

Diminished rates of return might have to be accepted for quite some time but a sustainable resumption of economic activity within a reasonable timeframe must be the over-riding aim.

Michael Walsh,
Dublin 3


Retail Sector And Rents (irish Times Letters)


9 thoughts on “Onward And Upward-Only

  1. Paulus

    Bewleys was reputed once to have run a competition for a short poem extoling its products. One entry went as follows:

    So much better by far
    A coffee in Bewleys
    Than a bang of a car
    Or a kick in the goolies.

    1. f_lawless

      It can’t be true
      They’re shutting down Bewley’s
      Ah go on
      Would you give them a new lease

      1. Ringsend Incinerator

        They asked Johnny Ronan
        He said “stop moanin'”
        Joe Duffy had a phone-in.
        After all that they’re still goin’.

        Paula Yeats.

        1. Cian

          Bewley’s can’t be closing,
            That can’t be right!
          What is the reason?
            Their coffee tastes of poo poo.

  2. Otis Blue

    Why not introduce a levy on vacant commercial property to act as a disincentive to leave such properties unused?

    We already do this on vacant and derelict sites.

  3. John Davis

    Weird the way the suppliers of these “viable” business are not being asked to give discounts. Only the landlords are being asked.

    Last time I went to Tesco the prices were still the same.

    I think the real reason is hatred of the landlords rather than helping business.

    The removal of the mom and pop landlord from the residential system has backfired terribly, will happen again in commercial after this.

    1. Cian

      In a restaurant/café the largest expense is probably staff costs. Why don’t they as the staff to give discounts?
      Supplies are lower down the list and are most likely running an very tight margins.

      1. m

        biggest cost for that bewleys was rent,
        they sold the building to a johnny ronan company and agreed an upwardly only rent review
        they sold some of the worst coffee in dublin and didnt move with the times,
        look at butlers a few doors up always a queue for coffee
        if all the cry babies actually went in and spent money they’d have been grand

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