CORK, Ireland - After a prolonged planning battle, that has lasted for three years now, the Starbucks outlet on Cork city's main street has now closed down.
The decision by the world's largest coffee chain comes after rulings from An Bord Pleanala, which ruled that Starbucks would require planning permission for the St Patrick's St cafe to remain in business.
Subsequently, the Cork City Council launched an enforcement action based on the rulings.
The controversial Starbucks outlet had opened in 2015, in a former mobile phone shop however, Starbucks licensed partner and the operator of its stores in Ireland - Entertainment Enterprises Group, had, since then, failed to secure planning permission for the change of use of the building.
City planners had slammed Starbucks' argument that what was being sold was consistent with the building’s previous use as a shop.
Following the argument, the matter was referred to An Bord Pleanála in 2015 and it agreed that the use of the premises as a coffee shop meant it was not exempt from planning.
However, based on the An Bord Pleanala's findings, Starbucks removed the tables, seats and toilets.
It argued that the location operated strictly as a takeaway and was, therefore, a shop rather than a cafe.
However, when the board reconsidered the argument, it ruled that the changes made by Starbucks didn't change the situation and pointed out that planning would be required.
Subsequently, the case was referred to the courts since Starbucks failed to comply with a closure order issued by the city council, which had pointed out that the use of the premises by the coffee chain was unauthorized.
The city council ordered Starbucks to close by June 29, 2017, which it failed to do, setting the stage for a legal battle.
Since then, Starbucks has faced not only an intensified legal battle but also a lot of resistance from competitors in the city.
For instance, in September last year, Cork-based independent cafe owners handed out free coffees as part of a one-day protest over Starbucks' expansion in the city.
However, eventually, after court proceedings were first adjourned and Starbucks sought further clarification on planning issues from the board, the court ruled that the use of the premises for the sale of convenience goods requires planning.
Pat Ledwidge, Cork city's head of planning pointed out that planning law must be upheld.
Ledwidge reportedly said, "I understand that there will always be some vacant units, as businesses change and leases come up, but St Patrick’s St is our front room window, and their are criteria and policies governing development there. And everyone is subject to the planning laws. We don’t discriminate."