herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Pubs in crisis as over 2,000 locals call last orders

OVER 2,000 pubs have closed in Ireland in just 10 years with dozens of rural Irish villages being left without a local for the first time in history.

The revelation came as the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) warned that the Government has been "sitting on their hands" while the pub sector has been decimated by the combination of falling incomes, emigration, home-drinking, excessive levies and taxation as well as the impact of the drink driving offensive.

The Revenue Commissioners recorded 8,617 Irish pubs in operation in 2005.

It is now estimated that fewer than 6,500 remain.

Closures

The rate of closures has accelerated since 2010 with the shut-down rate reaching more than one a day in 2011.

Rural areas have been hit far worse than Dublin.

VFI official and Cork publican, Con Dennehy, said a once-vibrant sector was now on its knees with close to 10,000 jobs directly shed by rural pubs over the past decade.

Just 109 pubs failed to renew their licenses in Cork in the three year period between 2007 and 2009.

However, 130 closed in 2010 alone - and the closure rate has continued at roughly one a day.

Over 50 jobs were lost in Waterford when three of its biggest pubs, Showboat, Mansion House and Halfway House, shut their doors last July.

"The bottom line is that, deliberately or not, people are being encouraged to drink at home," Mr Dennehy said.

"The pub is a social venue and needs to be supported. In many cases, the local pub is the heart and soul of a rural community and a huge tourism and social resource," he said.

The Bridge Pub, a famous GAA hostelry outside Ballyhea, closed last week with rural rights campaigner, Diarmuid O'Flynn, warning that the heart is now being ripped out of country areas.

Cork, Leitrim, Donegal and Waterford have lost close to 33pc of all their pubs over the past decade.

Now, publicans are demanding emergency Government action on:

l Below-cost selling of alcohol, particularly beer and cider, in supermarkets.

l Rates concessions by local authorities.

l More flexible tax clearance regime by the Revenue Commissioners.

l Enhanced promotion support for pub-related tourism and social events.

l Subsidies for special rural transport schemes to offset the impact of the drink driving offensive.

The VFI and Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) conducted a survey which revealed that, in less than two years, more than 15,000 jobs had been lost in the overall pub, drinks and related catering industry.

Concessions

A survey of Irish publicans revealed that 97pc believe further pub closures are inevitable in the current economic and regulatory environment.

The Government has refused to comment on possible concessions in the Budget to ease pressure on the struggling sector.

However, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has no plans for a special levy on off-license sales of alcohol.

hnews@herald.ie

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