BUSINESSES flouting Cork's street furniture rules will face prosecution.
Cork's city manager Joe Gavin issued the warning after complaints about several flagrant breaches of the licensing scheme governing the placement of tables and chairs on footpaths outside pubs and restaurants.
The scheme was introduced to enhance the ambience and atmosphere of the city streetscape.
It was strengthened in late 2004 when 29 conditions were added as the city prepared to become European Capital of Culture.
Despite calls from senior gardaí, a 9pm curfew was also scrapped. People must now move back inside at 11pm in winter and 11.30pm in summer.
Under the scheme, publicans and restaurant owners have to apply to the city council's roads directorate for a special licence to allow tables and chairs to be placed outside premises.
However, strict guidelines are laid down to ensure footpaths are not blocked.
Business owners must have a minimum of 1.8 metres of footpath clearance in front of their premises and, on pedestrianised streets, a continuous three-metre wide channel is required to facilitate the visually impaired and wheelchair users.
If they meet the requirements, they have to fork out €600 a year for a maximum 25-square metre seated area surrounded by a removable barrier. It costs €65 for every additional square metre.
But Fianna Fáil Councillor Damian Wallace said he witnessed several unauthorised incursions of outdoor tables and chairs onto the public footpaths.
He told Mr Gavin that, in some cases, publicans are "taking over" parts of the public road for seating or for queuing areas.
Cllr Wallace asked the city manager several weeks ago if he felt that this was an appropriate use of public space. Mr Gavin had said it was not.
Cllr Wallace this week also called on Mr Gavin to deal with the issue.
Mr Gavin said that each location was inspected individually before licences are granted.
He said breaches are treated seriously and promised action, up to and including legal action, if necessary.
Breaches of the licence are punishable under Section 71 of the 1993 Roads Act.
Fines upon conviction range up to €1,270 or six months in prison.