HOPES are growing that American coffee-shop chain Starbucks could open in Limerick.
It has been reported that Starbucks - famous for its Frappuccino and a company which led the way in specialist coffees - is scouting a number of locations in Limerick, with units in Cruises Street and Henry Street identified.
The firm has expressed interest in Limerick in the past number of months, and speculation has grown it is ready to move, after a planning notice was placed in the former HMV unit in Cruises Street.
Irish Life Assurance is to seek permission from Limerick City Council to change the use of the ground floor from retail use to a coffee shop.
The development will include the installation of coffee shop fittings, as well as a canteen, an office and store.
The planning consultants behind the project is Tom Phillips and Associates, which was behind the last opening of a Starbucks, at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin in December.
Helen O’Donnell of the Limerick City Business Association said: “We know Starbucks is looking at Limerick City as a potential place to set up a flagship store.”
She said the American chain - founded in 1971, and now with 20,000 stores globally - would be welcome to the city.
“Limerick is on the cusp of something great. Limerick is about to be a very busy city if we get all the jobs which are being spoken about,” she said.
Chamber chief executive Maria Kelly gave a more cautious welcome to the potential of Starbucks opening.
“We have a lot of coffee shops, and it depends if a big-brand one would drive more people in, and increase footfall. As long as it does not cause displacement for other business. A balance has to be struck,” she said.
But she welcomed the potential occupation of the prime location in Cruises Street, which has lain idle since HMV closed last year.
If a coffee shop was to open there, it would trade next door to Insomnia, which opened a concession in Eason’s.
But Ms Kelly said “clusters” of coffee shops work, pointing to Thomas Street.
“Look at what has happened to Thomas Street: this has become a coffee shop area, and they have all benefitted,” she explained.
And Mayor Kathleen Leddin said Starbucks coming to Limerick would send a powerful message to the outside world.
“A lot of people would want it. We have Starbucks branches all over Ireland. It is a sign that Limerick is on the up and up that they would invest in Limerick,” she said.
A spokesperson for Cork firm Downing’s Auctioneers, which had the unit on sale declined to comment when contacted by the Limerick Leader
But in an advert, the firm advertised the two units as being to let for €160,000 per year.
Letting agent John Downing is quoted in the advert as saying the unit lies in Limerick’s “retail heartland”.
“There’s 1,375 sq. ft. of ground floor retail space. Importantly it has a good street frontage on the main retail thoroughfares of O’Connell Street and Cruises Street and ” this affords the property maximum exposure to passing traffic,” he added.
A Facebook group has also been set up urging the retailer to come to the city.
Currently, it has 145 members, but its founder, local photographer Krzysztof Luszczki expects this to grow.
“I just love Starbucks. I love its coffee, the different types, and all its cakes,” the Polish national said.
He added: “I think having Starbucks here would be important not only for the people here, but for the tourists also.”
A spokesperson for Starbucks Ireland was not available for comment as the Limerick Leader went to press.