Here's why Ireland should embrace outdoor dining for good
Outdoor dining is a lifeline for businesses in Covid-19, but its benefits extend beyond the pandemic.
At the end of March, the Irish government announced plans to invest €17 million into upgrades that would allow businesses to adopt a "European-style" outdoor dining set up.
The plan, which will be run by Fáilte Ireland, facilitates individual businesses to apply for €4,000 grants. This will allow business owners to invest in waterproofing and other outdoor dining upgrades.
The aim of the scheme is to facilitate restaurants, cafes and hotels to reopen safely, and in accordance with the latest public health guidance on Covid-19.
However, a European approach to outdoor dining in Ireland could have benefits beyond Covid-19. In fact, it could change the dynamic of our cities for good.
A town built for people, not cars
In order to facilitate outdoor dining, a number of streets need to be pedestrianised. As it stands, Dublin City Council will look into pedestrianising South William Street, Dame Court, South Anne Street and Drury Street when restrictions ease.
This move will not only facilitate more outdoor dining, but it will see a reduction of traffic in our city centre. Allowing outdoor dining will mean that the city will prioritise its pedestrians and cyclists over cars.
A cleaner, greener city
Naturally, the pedestrianisation of our streets will have an impact on the environment. Less cars in the city centre will in turn contribute to the creation of a more enviromentally-friendly city.
As well as allowing businesses to cater for outdoor dining, this move will ultimately render our streets cleaner and more breathable.
Moreover, the move could encourage people to leave their cars at home and opt for walking, cycling or public transport.
Boosted cultural life
Beyond the clear environmental impact of this change, outdoor dining could transform our cultural landscape. Open spaces will expand horizons for the buskers that Ireland is famous for. An emphasis on outdoor public life may see our city centre become even livelier with additional spaces for our world-class performers.
The creation of people-centred public spaces isn't just good for business, it's good for culture too.
Right now, a number of activists are committed to making Ireland's streets more liveable. For instance, the group Streets Are For People are organising to "give public space back to the people". To follow their campaigns, head to their Twitter account.