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'Broken' pub landlords ready to sue insurers for refusing to pay out over lockdown losses

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Donall O'Keeffe of the LVA

Donall O'Keeffe of the LVA

Donall O'Keeffe of the LVA

Publicans are preparing to take legal action against insurers over their refusal to pay out on business interruption claims.

As the battle between the hospitality and insurance sectors rumbles on, insurers have been accused of "behaving immorally" during the Covid-19 crisis.

The owners of a rural Co Wexford pub, whose policy stated that an infectious disease is grounds for a business interruption claim, say they are "completely broken" after their insurer refused to pay out.

Some publicans are also still paying high rents despite being closed and are growing increasingly frustrated by insurance companies refusals.

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), which represents pubs in the greater Dublin area, said insurers are "hiding behind 60-page contracts to avoid paying out".

Stamina

"The insurance industry is setting up its stall and they are going to fight it all the way. They are grinding people down, testing people's stamina and they have no intention of paying out," LVA chief executive Donall O'Keeffe said.

He added that, while he expects more than 500 LVA members to re-open when the Government allows it, the trading environment may lead to pub closures.

"It's highly likely we'll be in recession, unemployment will be high and it could be months before business gets back to what it was prior to this," he said.

"Before this happened, the cost of insurance premiums had been an ongoing issue for businesses. Now, despite the fact we can't have employment or public liability claims as we're shut, they're still refusing to pay for disruption."

Some insurers, such as FBD, are arguing that Covid-19 clos-ures are a result of "national considerations" and not the outbreak of a contagious disease.

Some publicans have also hit out at "greedy" commercial landlords who are still charging rent.

Mr O'Keeffe said that, while private landlords are being supportive, some institutional landlords are being "completely inflexible".

One Dublin publican, who wishes to remain anonymous, faces paying up to €20,000 rent a month when one of the bars he runs eventually re-opens.

His commercial landlord has provided a "rent holiday", but that will end in quarter two next year when he will be expected to pay the outstanding amount on top of his monthly rates and rent.

"Everybody needs to take a bit of pain - including insurers - or the country won't get back up and running," he said.

"There's a big legal row brewing if not."