Restaurant and café owners are concerned that a new ‘sunshine tax’ could undermine the booming outdoor business in Irish cities.

A new ‘sunshine tax’ could affect Ireland’s hospitality industry by forcing pubs, cafes and restaurants to pay a tenfold increase in the current charge for outdoor seating and street signage.

If the proposed tax goes ahead, businesses with outdoor seating would have to pay an annual fee of €125 for each table and four chairs, €635 for street signage and an additional €100 for licensing.

Cork City Council are exploring the possibility of implementing the tax on a seasonal basis, charging businesses when outdoor seating is actually in use, such as between the months of May and September. Other local authorities in Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Waterford and Limerick are considering this approach too.

‘Café culture’ has become a significant selling point for Ireland’s tourism promoters, particularly with international visitors seeing it as a as a reason to visit the likes of Dublin, Cork and Galway, while street-side catering has been cited as a reason for the high number of American tourists spending time in other Irish cities and towns.

Tourism Development Directorate official Sharon Corcoran said: “Street furniture is critical. It is critical for small restaurants and it is critical for coffee shops. It is also critical for the tourism industry and we want to encourage people to stay longer [in towns and cities] and shop a little longer.”

Ireland enjoyed growth in overall visitor numbers of 10% in 2016.