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High Court rules on Bewley’s ‘windows’ row
Pic: RollingNews.ie

20 Jan 2023 / courts Print

High Court rules on Bewley’s ‘windows’ row

A High Court judge has ruled that four of six stained-glass works in Bewley’s Café on Dublin’s Grafton Street are ‘windows’, and belong to the building’s owner RGRE Grafton Ltd.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald decided, however, that the remaining two pieces were works of art, and belonged to the tenants, Bewley’s Café.

The six stained-glass works by the renowned illustrator and stained-glass artist Harry Clarke had been at the centre of a legal dispute between RGRE Grafton Ltd and Bewley’s Café.

‘Windows' or 'artworks'

The dispute concerned four panels, called 'The Four Orders', and a separate work comprising two panels, the 'Swan Yard'.

The property company, part of a group founded by developer Johnny Ronan, had argued that the works comprised windows that formed part of the leased premises.

On that basis, it contended that the works were, as a matter of law, the property of the landlord.

The tenants had argued that the works were ‘artworks’, and that they constituted “removable fixtures of an ornamental or decorative nature intended to enhance the café in furtherance of the tenant’s café trade”.

‘The Four Orders’

Referring to a 1998 video of the café, Mr Justice McDonald said that the 'The Four Orders' had operated as conventional windows at that time, admitting light and providing ventilation to the café.

“I have come to the conclusion that, on the balance of probabilities, ‘The Four Orders’ works were installed in 1928 in the position shown in the 1998 video, and that they operated as windows at that time, admitting light and ventilation to the café and also weathering the café from the elements.

“On that basis, they formed part of the external skin of the café building at that time,” he said.

The judge ruled that these four works formed “part and parcel” of the premises, and were owned by the landlord, but that the tenant had the benefit of them for the duration of the lease.

‘Swan Yard’

On the 'Swan Yard' works, Mr Justice McDonald said that the works were installed as part of a double layer of windows.

The judge said that, while they also provided light to the café and some ventilation, they were not part of the external skin of the café and did not contribute to "weathering it".

They had been moved to an internal wall in the café, and he ruled that these two stained glass panels were owned by the tenants.

This legal action was initiated after a dispute over rent arrears.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland