Regeneration in the Liberties: Cathedral Café on Dean Street

A new café adds a splash of youth to ageing Liberties.

John Bodkin and Aoife Mulford

“Home” is the word which comes to his mind when Trevor Lee describes his new café.

“I think the place is about coming in, being able to unwind, being able to share your thoughts and just being able to be yourself in general. Just like home.”

The Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral officially opened the Cathedral Café, the Liberties’ newest café located at number 2 Dean Street, on Monday, February 8th.

The café has now become the most prominent example of regeneration of a business within the Liberties area.

The local area plan for regeneration of business within the Liberties was finalised in September 2009 but as of yet no major plans have been put into fruition. The Liberties regeneration project is in association with Dublin City Council.

The local area plan on the 2nd of February 2009 became council policy and will guide the development of a 136 hectare area within south central Dublin over the next decade.

Nothing generic comes to mind when thinking of the Cathedral Café. Walking down Dean Street, it’s hard to ignore. Its black and gold exterior lights up a grey cityscape, managing to look sharp, stylish and alluring.

The café’s interior isn’t any less eye-catching. It boasts a 19th century Parisian style wallpaper, quaint wooden seating and a picturesque view of St Patrick’s Cathedral. The overall theme of the café juxtaposes old-fashioned and contemporary elements while still maintaining a homely, relaxed atmosphere.

So far it has been a fruitful start for the café. Trevor himself is surprised at how well it has been received saying, “The initial response has been remarkably positive and genuine. People have already welcomed it into the neighbourhood, with the locals saying that a place like this was much needed in the community.”

“Just last week I had an enquiry about a book society being held here every Wednesday, and somebody was talking about hosting cup-cake and wine making night classes. We’re definitely open to suggestions.”

“There has been such an alternative mix of people through the door, from locals, to artists, to tourists which is great.”

The café’s menu, while somewhat eclectic, is still in keeping with the shop’s homely ethos. He adds, “We cater for most tastes. We serve homemade soups and hot plate dishes. Our hot plate dishes change from week to week from lasagne to shepard’s pie.”

“As well as that we serve freshly made sandwiches, Spanish tortillas, freshly ground Bewley’s coffee, breakfast options and fresh croissants and scones. The dessert menu includes carrot cake, chocolate fudge cake and apple tart with cream. Importantly, it’s all very affordable”.

Although it has only been three weeks since Cathedral Café opened its doors, plans and ideas for the future have already been put in motion.

“A website is under construction. We are currently putting in place measures to make the café more wheelchair accessible. We have applied for a wine license as well, so we’re planning to have wine and tapas nights in the coming future”, he says.

Over the years Trevor has transcended himself from being a professional male model, fashion choreographer, cat-walk trainer and charity event manager into being a certified entrepreneur.

He is also no stranger to the Liberties area. Having lived locally for the past four years, he has also worked in the local secondary school, Presentation Warrenmount, and volunteered in Oxfam Ireland on Francis Street.

“The Liberties people portray a great positive spirit. They’re honest, colourful and diverse,” he says.

“I think it’s important above all to have a good relationship with the community in which the business serves and that’s what I’m striving for.”

The café has received generous support from the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Since officially opening the café, he has returned and been very encouraging and has given his best wishes to the new business. “He is a gentleman and I appreciated his time and efforts.”

The new area plan aims to develop a distinctive new city quarter and to significantly change the perception of the inner cities’ western gateway. Key Areas for development include St. James’s, Grand Canal harbour, the Basin Street area, Meath Street and Francis Street.

The Iveagh Market has planning approval for restoration of the market and construction of a four star hotel and other facilities but construction has yet to begin.

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