By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The British erotic shops chain, Ann Summers, is planning to fight a closure order served on it by Dublin Corporation within hours of its latest outlet being opened to the public on O’Connell Street opposite the GPO.
Jacqueline Gold, the woman behind the empire of 23 shops with a turnover of _48 million, said the company had more than 3,000 customers the day it opened and the tills had been ringing all the time.
Gold has been credited with bringing sex to the High Street in Britain, but Dublin’s city fathers wasted no time in letting her know that her shop was not wanted.
Their hand-delivered order gave her a month’s notice to cease operating. The order, issued under the 1963 Planning Act, said the shop does not fit in with the _40 million Integrated Area Plan for O’Connell Street.
She has a month to appeal to An Bord Pleanala and if the shop decides to ignore the notice, the Corporation can go to the High Court to have the it closed. Gold said she had referred the closure order to her lawyers.
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“I find it very disappointing,” Gold said. “A lot of the concern is based perhaps on pre-conceived ideas and not really knowing what Ann Summers is about. I would welcome those people coming to come into the store ands have a look for themselves and I am very confident they will be very pleasantly surprised.
“There has been talk of moving Ann Summers to a side street or a back street. Seventy percent of our customers are women and I think it is outrageous to even suggest that they should be shopping in a back street store.”
She said it was a ridiculous to suggest the shops she founded in 1981 promoted promiscuity. The Dublin shop does not stock so-called “personal products” — vibrators and sex toys — but Gold said she would “monitor” the situation in coming weeks.
At 2,500 square feet situated in a former shoe shop, the Dublin store is the chain’s largest. The company has already been turning over _3 million a year in business from sales of products at private parties in Ireland, which have been going on for 10 years.
Gold said the Irish parties generated more sales on average than those in the UK did — _310 compared to _192.
Ciaran McNamara, the Corporation’s project manager for the street’s plan, said the city council had decided unanimously that it was not an appropriate type of shop for the street.
John Stafford of Fianna Fail, who was lord mayor when the street’s revitalization plan was drawn up, said they wanted to turn it into a street that people would be proud of.
The Corporation intended to enforce the rules to ensure O’Connell Street had suitable shops that were in keeping with it being the best street in the capital.