The wind was blowing, and a few raindrops falling, on Monday about 9.30am as Annette Murphy and her dog Murphy Murphy walked past The Black Horse Inn.
Or, as what remains of the gold lettering over the boarded-up door and windows calls it, “The Bl H rs n”.
This hulking yellow and black building, surrounded by a small car park, sits just across the Grand Canal from the Red Line Luas’s Blackhorse stop.
Two guys were painting over graffiti on the pub, one covering the writing on a shutter with black paint, and the other hiding writing on a wall with white.
Pausing at the exit from the road that runs next to the pub on the north side of the canal, Goldenbridge Walk, Annette Murphy says The Black Horse used to be a nice place.
“It’s closed a good few years now,” she says. “It’s a pity. It was the local for a lot of people from this part of Drimnagh” – she points south across the canal and the Luas tracks – “and Inchicore” – she points north.
Images on Google Street View show it boarded up since at least August 2018.
And yet the owners recently argued they shouldn’t be liable for a new tax on it because it “is in use as premises, in which a trade or profession is being carried on … The relevant trade or profession is that of a public house,” according to a submission to the council.
The owners could not be reached by email or phone despite multiple attempts last week.
Plans for the site
Pub owner Tom Kelly applied in 2018 to Dublin City Council to demolish the pub and an adjoining pair of semi-detached houses, numbers 229 and 231 Tyrconnell Road.
His plan was to replace it with a three- to seven-storey apartment building with 56 apartments, plus a ground-floor cafe, and an underground car park accessed by a “car lift”.
The council refused permission in 2019, saying Kelly had “failed to adequately address the flood risk associated with the proposed development”, and that “the proposed development may pose a risk to the water quality and biodiversity of the Camac River during construction”.
In 2020, Alanna Homes applied to Dublin City Council to build the same thing and the council again refused permission. “The applicant has failed to adequately demonstrate that the proposed development would not pose a risk to the water quality and biodiversity of the Camac River,” it found.
The inspector’s recommendation, though, was not about flood risk or water quality. Instead, it focused, basically, on the share of apartments in the proposed development that would be one-beds, and the apartments’ sizes.
In a decision signed by Paul Hyde, the board in 2021 decided to overrule the inspector’s recommendation, ask the developer to combine some of the one-beds into two-beds, and approve the application.
Enter: the RZLT
And there the matter – and the boarded-up building – sat when the government decided to bring in a new tax on land that could have homes on it but doesn’t.
The government brought in the Residentially Zoned Land Tax (RZLT) in 2021. Then began a process of deciding what properties were liable for this annual tax of 3 percent of their market value.
When Dublin City Council proposed applying the tax to the The Black Horse Inn site, the landowner objected.
Company records show that Rainbowside Limited and Alanna Homes share the same directors: William McGreal and Cathal Ross. And the Lucan address for the objector is the same as the registered address for Alanna Homes.
The basis for the objection?
“The subject land … is in use as premises, in which a trade or profession is being carried on, that is liable to commercial rates, that it is reasonable to consider is being used to provides services to residents of adjacent residential areas,” says the submission. “The relevant trade or profession is that of a public house.”
“Rates are payable and continue to be paid on the premises,” it says.
The objection threatens court action should the RZLT be applied to the property. “Such imposition would represent an unjust attack on the owner’s property rights under Article 40.3.1 of the Constitution,” it says.
The council was unmoved by this argument. So, in April, Rainbowside Limited appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
The board’s inspector wrote that the grounds for the appeal included “A trade is taking place, use of the building as a public house”. However, he found, “I note that the public house on site is not operating at present.”
The grounds for appeal also included: “The public house is currently closed and is awaiting refurbishment, expected in mid-2023, and will reopen as a public house. Rates continue to be paid on this premises,” the inspector wrote.
However, he found, “There is no certainty provided on this and as such the site is an area of residentially zoned lands with a number of vacant buildings located here.”
In June 2023, the board took the inspector’s recommendation and upheld Dublin City Council’s decision to order the owners to pay the RZLT.
The owners did not respond to queries sent by email to the addresses on the latest company filings for Rainbowside Limited, or Alanna Homes, or the Alanna Group’s main email address last week – or a phone call to Alanna Group and message left with the person who answered the phone Friday.