Could a cafe be defined as general retail use

Alice O Neill

Registered User
Hi,

I am pulling my hair out trying to get definitions of general retail use - I saw the previous thread from 2011 but it is not concise. In the UK, there is no problem to have a cafe serving coffee, cake and cold food in an A1 General Retail premises. An A3 would also work ie Cafe/Bars with kitchens, hot food preparation on site and extraction.

The unit I am looking at has a restriction on hot food/extraction due to being in an apartment block. Previously it was used as a salad bar. As the classification system is a bit different here (and more difficult to change use seemingly) can anyone advise whether I might be barking up the wrong tree?

Thank you for any help!
 

newtothis

Frequent Poster
See the definition of "shop" near the top of the following: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2001/en/si/0600.html

There's no definition of café that I'm aware of. The planning system is more than a little opaque due to the lack of such definitions, and you are likely to get conflicting advice from the "experts". We certainly did.

I have experience of this within the last year. The unit we looked at was used as retail: we wanted it to serve coffee and food prepared on the premises. I was unwilling to sign a lease on it without some assurance in relation to planning: the council will give a verbal opinion if you talk to them, but won't write it down. However, you can (and I did) apply for what's called a Section 5 Declaration, for a relatively low cost. This is a statement that a planned development is exempt from requiring planning permission (note "development" includes a change of use). Just as well we did this, as within a couple of months of opening, someone objected to what we were doing to the council. They came round to check that we were doing what we said we were in our request for the declaration and the objection was dismissed. In our case it turned on whether we had seating for people consuming food on the premises: if we had (we don't), we'd be a café/restaurant, which would have required a change of use, as would "the sale of hot food for consumption off the premises". Note that more than one professional (architect and planning consultants) had told us we would need planning permission, but this turned out to be incorrect.

Note that I don't think you'll find anywhere that says it's the provision of seating that made the difference in our case: this was something that was said to me by the official who handled the objection. He also told me that if its ancillary to the main business this doesn't apply (hence the likes of Spar that now have café seating in them), although he said that in some cases people are pushing the limits on this. He also mentioned they are very negative on take-aways.

Based on my own experience, I'd recommend you follow the same process I did and first speak with the planning department of the council to get an (informal) opinion. Depending on what the opinion is, decide then what to do next.

What is the planning history in your case? Note that there can be restrictions on previously granted permissions, as you seem to indicate. These are likely to be hard to get changed. What is the current established use, and what do you want to do with it?
 

Alice O Neill

Registered User
See the definition of "shop" near the top of the following: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2001/en/si/0600.html

Thank you for your speedy and detailed response. It is helpful to know re the Section 5 Declaration. I have read that it is better to be somewhat armed before approaching the Planning Department but I agree it is definitely one of the next steps.

According to the RE Agent the property is not suitable for a number of uses including a pharmacy, off-licence, takeaway or food use requiring extraction, grocery store, or travel agency. The unit has planning permission for general retail and would require planning permission for change of use should the sale and preparation of hot food be required onsite, or require extraction. The previous tenant (salad bar) did not require extraction or planning for change of use.

Within the above scope, it sounds like my proposed use would fit in (coffee, sandwiches, cake etc, both take-out (probably >60% of sales) and about 30 seats within the shop). However I had not previously considered that seats on site may cause it to push into the cafe/restaurant category although this seems arbitrary.

Glad it worked out for you & thanks again!
 

newtothis

Frequent Poster
It sounds like you should be OK, but I'd take the precaution of doing what we did and get the declaration from the council. One thing is I wouldn't pay much attention to what the agent says: they have a habit of saying whatever it takes to get a tenant in. There's nothing special about a "grocery store" or travel agency for example that I'm aware of. I'd definitely look up the planning history yourself, and get copies of any applications that have been made (freely available online from most if not all councils): don't trust what the agent says.

Was there seating in the unit before? If not, that's probably the only questionable area: if it's ancillary to the main business it's OK. I don't think there's any issue with talking to the council informally, but for sure you'd need all your ducks in a row for any planning application or application for a section 5 declaration. See also http://www.dublincity.ie/main-menu-services-planning-heritage-and-conservation-conservation/section-5-declaration
 
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kceire

Frequent Poster
A cafe is not a retail shop. A cafe is a place of public assembly where food is prepared and consumed on the premises.

This has big implications with regards to planning, building control issues such as a fire cert and DAC.

What exactly will you be doing on the site?
 

Seanaway

New Member
Hi. I am in a similar situation right now and wondered how it worked out for you. Could you post and let meknow? Thanks.
 

Leo

Moderator
If the cash that Starbucks brings to bear can't enable them run a cafe in a retail space, I doubt many others would be successful. So before you go spending too much, assess the local authority's appetite for such a change of use.
 

newtothis

Frequent Poster
Hi. I am in a similar situation right now and wondered how it worked out for you. Could you post and let meknow? Thanks.
It would be interesting to hear how the OP got on OK.

One thing that's happened since I wrote answer above is that Starbucks seem to be able to ignore planning at will. They have opened what are clearly cafes in what were clearly retail spaces before (Drury Street in Dublin being but one example) without requesting planning permission. I'd stand over my advice on getting a Section 5 declaration: it protects you against action being taken after the fact. The "experts" cannot be truisted on this - we were given conflicting advice by people who claimed to know.

One thing: do not sign a lease without having 100% certainty around this issue. You could end up in a situation where you commit in a lease to do something that you are prevented from doing by the local council.
 

newtothis

Frequent Poster
If the cash that Starbucks brings to bear can't enable them run a cafe in a retail space, I doubt many others would be successful. So before you go spending too much, assess the local authority's appetite for such a change of use.
That's brilliant about Starbucks in Cork! I hadn't heard that. A pity Dublin City Council aren't so willing to act (I think there's a case in Fingal too). Good that An Bord Pleanála backed the decision.
 
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