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The Tailors’ Hall Tavern, a new pub with two beer gardens, opened towards the end of last year on High Street in the Liberties.
The building, originally a guild hall and more than 300 years old, is council-owned but leased by the heritage group An Taisce.
It has planning permission for community uses, for special events, according to the planner’s reportfrom a planning retention application in 2010.
Last year, An Taisce sublet the basement to a publican, Paul Clinton, who has refashioned it into a pub, and the grounds into beer gardens. It has also sublet the ground floor, which Clinton says he plans to use mostly for weddings.
“Time for the midweek special, and it’s very special. Very nice indeed! #guinness #guinnesdraught #loveguinness #dublin #pint #irish #pub #beer #cheers #slainte #irishpub,” says an Instagram post from Tailors’ Hall, with a photo of two pints of Guinness on a bar, settling between pours.
However, Tailors’ Hall is a protected structure, and independent Councillor Mannix Flynn says that the kinds of changes that have been made to the building, and its use, required planning permission. “So for An Taisce to carry out these works without due process, it is simply outrageous.”
A spokesperson for An Taisce said: “An Taisce has advised the tenants of Tailors’ Hall of our absolute requirement for them to fully comply with all planning and other regulatory requirements.”
A spokesperson for Dublin City Council, though, said the use the building is being put to has planning permission. And so did the works done on the building, they said.
“The necessary planning permission for change of use and associated works was sought and granted and all works were carried out in accordance with best conservation practice with input from DCC’s Conservation Section and City Architects Department,” they said.
The council spokesperson has not yet responded to three emails asking for a link to the planning permission file for the building, which does not appear in the council’s planning application database online.
Clinton, the publican, says he didn’t apply for planning permission to change the use of the building. He didn’t need it because the building was already used for hospitality, he said.
Both floors, he says, are available to be used by community groups and have been booked – at no charge – in coming weeks for a meet-up of climate activists, a Dublin Film Festival launch, and a wedding, among other events, he said.
As for the works, Clinton says he added spotlights at the front of the building, made changes to the bar, put furniture on the grounds and installed signage on the railings without applying for planning permission.
But, he says, he didn’t turn the grounds of the historic building into a beer garden. “It’s furniture on the grounds.”
The grounds now have cafe tables and chairs, as well as wooden picnic-style tables sheltered by umbrellas, pictured in an Instagram post.
Flynn, the independent councillor, says An Taisce got the lease on the building from the council at a reduced rate because of its charitable purpose, but now it’s being used for a commercial operation. “I’d be asking Dublin City Council to reconsider their lease.”
A tall black lantern marks the entrance to one beer garden at the front of Tailors’ Hall Tavern on High Street.
Steps lead down to a basement pub with stone walls, a wooden bar and a large fireplace with candles. Dark wooden beams run along the ceiling, wooden benches line wooden tables and stags antlers adorn the walls.
Out the back is a second, bigger, beer garden with a gate onto Back Lane.
An Taisce leased Tailors’ Hall from Dublin City Council for 99 years starting in 1985, according to the spokesperson for An Taisce.
Dublin City Council said it wouldn’t share a copy of the lease that the council has with An Taisce, making it hard to say whether it set any conditions at that time on what the building could be used for.
But in 2009, the ground and lower floors of the building had permission for community uses, according to a planner’s report from the time.
That report was part of an application by An Taisce to regularise how it had already been using that part of the building – for in-house events and as a for-hire private function room for weddings, social functions, dances and conferences.
As well as checking they can use it for dances, they also wanted permission to use the building for theatrical events and concerts. “Which would not currently be permissible but which would be appropriate for the building,” says the report.
Until then, the lease had contained a stipulation that alcohol should not be sold there, and there shouldn’t be any noisy business, says the planner’s report.
Dublin City Council wrote a letter saying it would waive those restrictions, says the planner’s report, so the hall could be used to raise funds for the building’s maintenance. Council planners approved the planning permission for these uses.
“Such consent does not imply approval for change of use or development for which permission under the Planning Acts or Building Regulations would be required,” it says.
Clinton, the publican who sublets the basement and ground floor from An Taisce, says that as the building was used for hospitality, it didn’t need permission to change the use to a pub.
“Its current use is the hospitality section of the guild hall,” he says. He has employed a specialist planning consultant to do a report. “We are confident,” he says.
In 2011, Tailors’ Hall Events Limited got a special restaurant licence, which allows alcohol to be sold but only with food. Under that licence the alcohol must be paid for together with the food and the premises are not permitted to have a bar.
Tailors’ Hall Events Limited renewed the special restaurant licence each year between 2011 and 2016, district court records show.
In May 2022, Liberty Renaissance Limited secured a restaurant licence and a full seven-day pub licence, for use at “basement and ground floor of Tailors Hall”.
Clinton said that the pub licence covers the grounds of the building too. “Yes, it is within the legal licensed area in the licensing map.”
Clinton, who owns Liberty Renaissance Limited together with John McClafferty, says that as part of the licensing process, “an architect has given sworn evidence about what has been done and what requires a change of use”.
The company also has the lease on a large hall on the ground floor, which will be used for special events, Clinton says. “We are primarily a wedding venue.”
Local community groups can still use the hall for free, he says. “There was no community use that happened before that cannot happen now.”
A spokesperson for An Taisce says that community uses still take place in the building.
He didn’t respond to queries as to how much rent it pays to Dublin City Council and how much rent Clinton pays to sublet the ground floor and basement of Tailors’ Hall.
The spokesperson for An Taisce, says that it sublet part of the building for use as a cafe/restaurant with permission from Dublin City Council.
In response to a question about whether a restaurant would also constitute a change of use from community use, the An Taisce spokesperson said it wouldn’t. “Permission was previously granted for the space to be used for licenced events,” he says. “The lower function room has always had the facilities of a fully fitted commercial kitchen and bar in place.”
Whether it is a professional operation or not is not relevant to planning law, he says.
Changing a Protected Structure
Clinton says the works he has done did not require planning permission. He is getting a specialist planning firm to do a report to support that, he says.
The work inside the pub has maintained the original appearance and he is proud of the restoration work, he says.
“We think we can upcycle this place,” he says. “We haven’t cheapskated anything, we have used the best of everything.”
But Kieran Rose, a former planner with Dublin City Council, says that almost anything that changes the appearance of a protected structure requires planning permission.
The spotlights would probably require planning permission, he says, and even the signage on the railings change the appearance of the building.
The conversion of the outdoor area front and back to beer gardens appears to be a material change of use, he says, because those pieces of land have been converted to a commercial use.
That would require planning permission because it is a change of use of that piece of land, he says. It is irrelevant whether the furniture used is permanently installed there or temporary, he says
“Part of me thinks An Taisce are doing a public service by keeping this building and they need an income,” says Rose. “On the other hand, they should be setting an example.”
“They would crawl all over a private developer if they did that,” he says.
Flynn, the independent councillor, said: “The use of the grounds as a beer garden is simply atrocious.”
Flynn says that An Taisce would be the first to complain if any other organisation opened a pub in a protected building without going through the planning process.
They can’t say they don’t understand their responsibilities when leasing a protected structure, he says.
A spokesperson for Dublin City Council didn’t respond to a query as to who is responsible for any potential planning breaches on the grounds of the protected structure.
In response to a query about whether the council is investigating planning breaches at Tailors Hall, a spokesperson for Dublin City Council said: “As this is subject to ongoing investigations, Planning Enforcement cannot comment further on the matter at this time.”
The spokesperson for An Taisce says they are awaiting the results of the council’s investigations. “This is currently being processed between the Enforcement Department of DCC and the Tennant, An Taisce awaits the outcome of the Planning Authorities decision.”