Irish coffee shops fight back against Starbucks

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Ireland’s coffee shops are under threat by the creeping expansion of Starbucks in its capital city. On Tuesday a group of Dublin’s independent coffee shops held a “Day of Free Coffee” to ask the city’s inhabitants help them survive.

Dublin has a burgeoning coffee culture but its independent stores are worried, fearing new Starbucks stores are taking over the city, pushing up rents and driving independents out -while paying next to no taxes. In the 2015-2016 tax year the firm which runs Starbucks in Ireland, Ritea Limited, made a profit of £922,687 but paid £41 in corporation tax — the equivalent of 13 grande lattes.

“Dublin needs more small independent business run by Dubliners, and paying their fair share of Dublin Taxes,” said Ciaran Hogan, who owns the independent coffee shop the Clockwork Door. “We say that it is unfair and ugly for a city to be taken over by any chain, and for the council to allow it.”

Starbucks opened its first outlet in Dublin in Dundrum Town Centre in August 2005. Today is it difficult to walk for 5 minutes through the city centre without coming across a green sign. There are 50 Starbucks stores in the Dublin area, with one more about to be opened in a former recruiters’ office.

Most people reacted with weariness: “Not another one.” But for many of Dublin’s independent coffee shop owners, the new Starbucks was a trigger for action. Around 20 shop owners agreed Tuesday would be a “Free Day of Coffee” and Dubliners would be able to get a free coffee in any of their shops. In return, they hoped the city would recognise the threat they face.

“On the 5th of September the small independent cafes and coffee shops of Dublin will be giving away free coffee no catch, no strings attached,” they wrote on Facebook. “Please support local business run by local people who actually pay the local taxes, and improve the local community!”

“Cafes around the city took part to highlight the fact that we don’t need five Starbucks in a 500m radius of each other,” said Tony Divito of Cocobrew. “It went well. We saw new faces through the door. They expressed their support for local independent coffee shops. We’re all in agreement that there are too many Starbucks.”

Dublin councillor Mannix Flynn agrees with the independent coffee shop owners, arguing that too many big brand, multinational outlets are detrimental to the city. “What you are dealing with here is a consortium – one that literally wants to brand itself all over the place,” he said. “We need to be sure not to let monopolies take over the uniqueness of our streets and areas.”

It’s not just coffee shops that feel threatened. Sonia Khan, who owned an Indian restaurant, said: “My takeaway closed down and they wouldn’t renew my lease because guess what? Starbucks bought my premises!”

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