Photo by Conal Thomas

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“So far, so cold,” says Ion Anghel, pouring milk into a foaming jug at his mobile coffee shop on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.

He is stood behind the counter in boots, a hat and six jumpers, layers of defense against the chilly air. It’s 2pm and he’s been here since 5am.

Earlier this Thursday morning, as he does every morning, Anghel had lugged his large generator – thrumming loudly by the campshire’s edge – to this spot where, for two years, he has been trying to get a permanent electricity hook-up for his business.

“It’s very hard,” he says of his daily generator trips to his mini fold-out truck. “I get older. I don’t get younger.”

A Lengthy Battle

“Single-shot, skinny cappuccino?” he asks the next customer.

Customers come to Anghel from up Cardiff Lane, past the Ferryman pub on the corner. Some come on a break from the office blocks that line the quays.

Others approach from near the Samuel Beckett Bridge where, up until 2015, Anghel was located.

He was moved along to make way for the ongoing redevelopment of the quays, he says, and now has his businesses further east, past the Beckett Bridge.

Anghel has managed to keep the business ticking along, but the daily trips with the generator – stored in a warehouse further up the quays and hooked up to a power bank supplied by the Office of Public Works – are taking their toll, he says.

Permanent electricity from Dublin City Council could help, he says. “But they won’t do that.”

Dublin City Council has told Anghel that because he operates as a casual trader, he won’t be supplied with electricity.

To do so, wrote council Administrative Officer Derek Kelly back in October, could set a precedent across the city.

Anghel has operated in the area since 2006, setting up the year after he moved to Ireland from Romania. He is frustrated at what he sees as a grey area between casual trading and his mobile business, he says.

It’s been a problem as he sees it for more than a decade and solutions haven’t been forthcoming. “It’s crazy,” he says.

A Connection

“Hello Mike!” says Anghel, as another regular arrives for his Americano. The lunch rush nears its end.

The wind whips up along the quay. Anghel’s credit card machines flies off the counter, as Mike fumbles, lifting the pieces off the ground.

“It’s fine!” says Anghel. “It’s still working. I think. You can give me €100, I need to pay the electricity anyway.”

Once he was told the council could not supply him with permanent electricity, Anghel turned to the Electricity Supply Board (ESB). There he hit a €20,000 barrier.

That’s how much the ESB told him it would cost: to be exact, €19,623.72, excluding VAT, according to a letter from 12 September.

To set up his coffee business with a permanent supply, the ESB need to drill down into the quayside to facilitate a power unit and meter. (An ESB spokesperson said they could not discuss individual applications.)

“How do they expect me to have €20,000, though?” says Anghel.

There’s little chance of the council contributing to that either, wrote Kelly from Dublin City Council in October. “This is not something that the council will be funding,” said Kelly.

Even if ESB put in a permanent electricity connection for €20,000, neither the ESB nor Anghel have permission to do so on council land, wrote Kelly.

Anghel is unsure what to do next. “It’s ridiculous,” he says. “I need planning permission to survive in this city.”

A Route Forward

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey sees no immediate solution.

But there is further work to be completed along the quays towards Dublin Port, he says. That could mean, in the future, more permanent power supplies in the area for the likes of Anghel.

But the council can’t bend the casual trading bye-laws to facilitate one trader, says Lacey. “They’re not against him but they haven’t yet found a way to help him,” he says. “That’s the problem.”

Lacey says he now has agreement with the council’s Docklands office to meet with Anghel in the coming weeks to examine possible solutions. “But how do you get an electricity supply to a […] riverside away from any other electricity supply?”

As Anghel sees it, another relocation further down the quays – to a permanent power supply – could affect his business. For now, his return trips with the generator continue.

It thrums at the quayside as Anghel steams milk for his next customer’s latte. “I have built this business up in this area for 12 years,” he says. “I don’t know what to do.”

Cónal Thomas

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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