INTERNATIONAL coffee shop giant Starbucks is on the brink of confirming a move to the city, the Limerick Leader can reveal.
Representatives of the Seattle founded chain are set to confirm it will open its first Limerick outlet at the glass-fronted Thomas Street centre, which was sold last year.
“It’s almost there. It is just a case of i’s being dotted and t’s being crossed,” said a well-placed source.
Rumours have been rife on neighbouring streets for a number of weeks that the multi-national chain is on the brink of opening.
But the news has drawn a mixed reaction, with metropolitan district mayor Michael Sheahan asking: “Are we not coffee shopped out at this stage?”
Starbucks was founded in 1971, and has over 20,000 stores globally. It is only in recent years it has started an aggressive expansion in Ireland, with Dublin and Cork being its particular focus.
There are fears that a further multi-national coffee chain could force smaller independent operators out of business.
Local businesswoman Helen O’Donnell, who chairs the City Business Association, does not believe there is enough of a population in the city to support yet another coffee shop.
“We are delighted to welcome anyone who is setting up in our gorgeous city. But it is another coffee shop, another cafe. Every time one shop opens, it takes away another’s customers. More coffee shops have opened here in the last 10 months than any other business,” she said.
Mayor Sheahan also gave a cautious welcome.
“Any enterprise which brings footfall, and attracts young people into the city centre has to be welcomed,” he said.
“But we should be looking at a wider selection of enterprises in the centre. We are more than well served by coffee shops.”
The landmark building Starbucks is expected to move into sold last year for around €3m to a Cork-based private investor.
It was their intention to convert the building to three floors of retail space, and a further floor of office space.
The coffee chain would represent the first occupant of the centre.
Previously, a convenience store-type supermarket - widely rumoured to be Tesco Ireland - was eyeing up the site, a move which drew the opposition of several nearby traders.
A number of other coffee chain stores have already moved into the city, the most recent being British-owned Costa Coffee, which located at the former HMV site on Cruises Street.
Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment.