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Bewley's Oriental Cafe closes for good

Owen Bawn

"Ask me about a fluffernutter"
Bewley's Oriental Cafe was a Dublin institution that appeared in novels, memoirs, songs and poetry. Originally a theater, it was converted to a cafe by the Bewley family in the late C19. Just up the street from Trinity College, you never knew who might be sitting at the table next to you enjoying a cuppa and a sweet biscuit or a sandwich. Their blended teas were fantastic. Bewley's survived famine, wars, economic depression, and all sorts of hard times. But the Caroney virus has apparently killed it.

 

Owen Bawn

"Ask me about a fluffernutter"
I was last in there between Christmas, 2018 and New Year's, just after the wreckovation. The rents on Grafton St are exorbitant, and I think Bewley's corporate management thought the property should generate greater profit than that stemming from the sale of cups of coffee, pots of tea, tuna melts, cheese toasties, ham sarnies, and sticky buns, which created the identity crisis the IT reviewer noted. Very sad.

You could say this about many places around the world, but the pace of change in Ireland since 1988 has been staggering.
 
Bewley's was an institution alright, but seemed to be stuck in the past and too reliant on their previous reputation. The premises on Grafton Street was huge and would take more than a few mugs of tae to pay the rent for a premises of that size.

After their last restructure it was hard to see how they could survive whilst maintaining their Grafton St location. I always thought Westmoreland Street could have been changed to cater more for the takeaway market, given the high footfall and being essentially a transport hub.
 

Owen Bawn

"Ask me about a fluffernutter"
I see Bewley's on Grafton Street is to reopen after they raised funds to clear the rent arrears. Don't know how long it will last this time.
With tourism at a standstill it may not be long. The small time turf accountants and gombeens in Galway are starving this week. Only Paddy Power and Ladbrokes stand to benefit from the races this year.
 
I had to go into the office last week and town is still quiet compared to normal. Absolutely bustling compared to April and May though.

I really can't see their target market. If people want a tea experience they are likely to go to the Shelbourne or one of the other hotels around Stephen's Green. If someone wants a coffee to take away there are more coffee shops in the area (one of my favourites is on Dawson Street). I also prefer other coffee to the Bewley's blend.
 

Owen Bawn

"Ask me about a fluffernutter"
I had to go into the office last week and town is still quiet compared to normal. Absolutely bustling compared to April and May though.

I really can't see their target market. If people want a tea experience they are likely to go to the Shelbourne or one of the other hotels around Stephen's Green. If someone wants a coffee to take away there are more coffee shops in the area (one of my favourites is on Dawson Street). I also prefer other coffee to the Bewley's blend.
When she was 10 or 11 I took my American born daughter to the Shelbourne for proper tea. She never felt more like a princess, while I never felt more like an east Galway farmer's son.
 

Doc4

I'm calling the U.N.
Moderator Emeritus
rents on Grafton St are exorbitant, and I think Bewley's corporate management thought the property should generate greater profit than that stemming from the sale of cups of coffee
Sadly, this conundrum is far too common. The ancient, venerated "local institution" could continue indefinitely with a landlord willing to take low rent and an operator willing to make "enough" profit on the traditional business, but things always boil down to the dollars and cents eventually.

It takes real foresight and restraint to see businesses like these as the "loss leaders" that make a business area "authentic" and attractive, give it it's vibe, and let them stay to make the rest of the area more profitable.
 
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