What initially started as an attempt to rid the city of alleged hazards in the form of sandwich boards, or A boards as they’re also known, has become an ugly row between retailers and the council.
While sandwich boards had been widely accepted for some time, Dublin City Council decided to clamp down on them in 2017 by carrying out random inspections around the capital. Since then, the issue has escalated further, culminating in the introduction of strict guidelines that include an initial registration fee of €100 and a yearly fee of €630.
The council has also stepped up its plans by policing the streets of Dublin and confiscating sandwich boards from restaurants that haven’t paid the fee but still have their boards outside their locations. Four new staff members were hired to police the issue and, since the regulations came in on September 1st, more than 60 boards have been confiscated from around the city.
Niall Sabongi, owner of Klaw and The Seafood Café in Temple Bar has been vocally opposed to these changes on Twitter since they came into effect - especially since his own sandwich board was confiscated from his restaurant, which is located on Crowne Alley.
Speaking to Joe Duffy on RTÉ’s Liveline, Niall called the Council’s scheme a money-making racket, denouncing what he called the council's “bully tactics”. Niall noted that the rates in Dublin are crippling small business at the moment and that this new regulation could easily cause many locations to close. While he agreed with the idea of clearing the streets of obstacles, Niall wondered if there might be a better way to handle the situation - a sentiment that we agree with.
Dublin City Council Weighs In
According to Dublin City Council’s statement on the new regulations, the new policy has been introduced to help alleviate “issues for pedestrian mobility, particularly for the visually impaired. Make Way Day 2018, organised by the Disability Federation, noted A boards as the biggest issue facing mobility and visually impaired in the city.”
Make Way Day 2019 was held on Thursday, 26 September, and highlighted how it’s not just sandwich boards that impact mobility: bins, cars and much more can cause also blockages on paths. However, sandwich boards appear to be the most easily regulated.
Dublin city is clearly a minefield for those in wheelchairs and with sight impairments. Take Temple Bar for an example, and you will understand why. The area is full of potholes, uneven cobblestones and very narrow paths, making the entirety of Temple Bar nearly inaccessible for fully-abled people, let alone those with impairments; and that’s before you take sandwich boards into account.
While Dublin clearly needs to be more accessible, charging small business owners almost €1,000 to advertise outside their location doesn’t seem to be the right solution. Rates in Dublin have skyrocketed over the past number of years and with the recently-increased VAT rates, it’s clear that restaurateurs all over the city are stretched to their limits.
Increasing footfall and enticing customers into their outlets is the only way that restaurants and stores across the city will survive. Another solution has to be found before more businesses are forced out of the city.
Ideally, the Council would introduce a system that benefits everyone but, as of yet, there is no word on whether any changes will be introduced. We want Dublin to be a city that everyone is comfortable in, so something definitely has to change.