Covid supports help Charlie Chawke’s pubs return to profit

Milltown Inns group received €1.5 million in State grants last year, up from close to €600,000 in 2020

State Covid supports were “a big help” for three of Charlie Chawke’s pubs in 2021, saving the businesses from plunging to an operating loss.

Accounts just filed with the Companies Registration Office for the Milltown Inns group – which includes The Dropping Well in Milltown, Dublin 6; The Orchard Inn in Rathfarnham, and Aunty Lena’s in Adare, Co Limerick – generated gross profits of close to €3.6 million but had administrative expenses of €3.7 million in the year to the end of October last.

The company, in which Mr Chawke’s children hold ownership stakes, would have incurred an operating loss for the financial year if it had not received income from other sources totalling close to €1.8 million, including Government supports worth €1.5 million and rental income of close to €173,000.

Milltown Inns, which reported a €1.1 million profit after tax last year, also received more than €586,000 in Covid supports in 2020.

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Mr Chawke told The Irish Times that the supports were of significant assistance to the business in 2021, allowing it to largely retain 2020 staffing levels.

Consolidated accounts for the group show it employed 94 people last year, down from 104 in 2020, most of them bar and restaurant staff, but down significantly from pre-pandemic 2019 when it employed 154 staff. Milltown Inns’ wage bill declined slightly from €2.4 million in 2020 to €2.1 million last year.

Turnover was also down slightly to €5.5 million in the year to the end of October 2021 from €5.7 million in 2020 after being closed for long periods due to public health restrictions.

However, this represented a significant decline from 2019 when the group turnover topped €10 million.

Mr Chawke, who is listed as a director of the company along with his wife Bernice Chawke, said that so far, 2022 has been a much better year for the business with the return of normal trading conditions. However, he said the outlook for the rest of the year was uncertain with energy prices posing a particular threat.

“So far, so good,” he said. “We just have to keep our fingers crossed. That’s all we can do.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times