STRABANE’S outdoor cafe culture could be killed off after the local council voted to introduce a £460 licensing fee.
Following a decision by Derry City and Strabane District Council to charge pubs and eateries for putting out tables and chairs, some business owners say they will seriously consider pulling in their outdoor furniture.
Only a very small number of eateries in the town have the capacity for chairs and tables outside their premises.
One of them is the Sandwich Company on Castle Street. But following the decision to bring in the licence fee, owner Lynn Brolly said she would have to think about putting out tables and chairs in the future.
“I was thinking about pulling in the chairs because every penny counts when you take in your rent, your rates and everything else. And there are already so many hidden costs with food that people don’t see,” Mrs Brolly said.
The businesswoman said that prior to the council merger with Derry there were fears that Strabane could lose out. That appears to be coming to pass, Mrs Brolly said.
“There was a fear before the councils amalgamated and it was that Derry would see a lot more than us and I think it is going down that route, especially when you see the festivals and things that Derry are getting. This licence fee might benefit Derry more because they have the footfall. But it is only for a few months in the summer and I don’t think the tables and chairs outside are a big benefit to me. What they do though is they create that sense of community and they create a buzz with people stopping to talk to each other.
“The town will lose out in that way but what we have to look at is whether it is worth the extra money,” added Mrs Brolly.
Oscar’s on Strabane’s Main Street is another outlet that has in the past put out furniture for customers wishing to have a smoke.
A spokesperson there said they too were giving serious thought to scrapping the outdoor tables.
“We put in a canopy so people could sit outside and have a smoke,” said Oscar’s.
“Having the furniture and the ashtrays looks the part, rather than customers having to stand in the street and flick their cigarette butts into the road. That was our main reason for putting the tables and chairs out.
“But it’s hard enough running a business with the rates, the rent, wages and everything else. When we turn the key on a Monday morning, we have a certain amount of money we have to make to cover our costs and this licence fee will just add to that.
“We would definitely be giving it the thumbs down.”