| 14.7°C Dublin

'Why is it Ireland where pubs are suffering?' - Chawke Pub Group forced to let 300 staff go

Close

The Bank Bar on College Green

The Bank Bar on College Green

The Bank Bar on College Green

One of Ireland's most prominent pub groups has been forced to lay off up to 300 staff as fears grow for thousands more jobs in the hospitality sector.

The Chawke Pub Group, which runs seven gastro bars in Dublin and two in Limerick, said it has been left with no other option.

An industry source described it as the "tip of the iceberg", with many more job losses expected in the coming weeks.

A spokesperson for the Lic-ensed Vintners' Association (LVA), which represents pubs in the greater Dublin area, estimates that 90pc of jobs in the pub sector in the capital are now gone. Indoor dining is currently banned in Dublin due to the latest Covid-19 restrictions.

The Chawke group employs around 400 people across its venues including Searsons on Baggot Street and the Bank Bar on College Green in Dublin.

Charlie Chawke's son David, who currently runs the Bank Bar, said he hopes the lay-offs are only temporary.

"I don't know what our staff are meant to do. We were told we'd be able to reopen on October 12 and now they're putting a different spin on it. People have bills and mortgages to pay," he told the Herald. 

"The biggest issue is we used to get paid or reimbursed under the wage subsidy scheme five days later. Now it takes four to six weeks to get that money and they can't give us an answer as to why that changed.

Suffering

"We don't plan on closing anything for good, but I don't know why it's just our industry. Why is this not Europe-wide, why is it just Ireland where hotels, pubs and restaurants are really suffering?"

During the summer, Mr Chawke announced the venue would be taking deposits, with all bookings due to last-minute cancellations.  

The Old Orchard Inn in Rathfarnham, also part of the group, had to temporarily close earlier this month after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19.

An LVA spokesperson said: "Before the pandemic hit, there were 12,500 jobs in the pub sector in Dublin. We would estimate that well in excess of 90pc of those jobs are now gone.

"This is the impact that the hospitality sector closures are having and the fact non-food pubs in Dublin are yet to re-open, having been closed since March. They have been closed for approximately 200 days at this point."

Changes to the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), which resulted in many people working in the pub industry no longer qualifying, has led to bars having to let staff go.

The LVA previously wrote to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, asking for an amendment to be made to help an industry "already on its knees".

"Anyone working 14 hours a week or less at that rate will not be covered by this scheme," said LVA chief Donal O'Keeffe.

"It will not be financially viable for pubs operating at 50pc capacity or less to utilise these members of staff."