Almost three-quarters of publicans outside Dublin say turnover is now similar or greater than it was before the Covid pandemic, with many expecting to upgrade their pubs in the coming year, a new survey has found.
However, the research from the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), also called for State supports such as the retention of the 9 per cent hospitality VAT rate and insurance reform.
According to the VFI study, 72 per cent of publicans say turnover is now at a similar level or has exceeded pre-pandemic turnover, with the same number turning a profit in 2022.
Over 80 per cent are confident their financial performance will be at least equal or improve in 2023 compared to last year, despite the spiralling cost of energy, insurance and other operating expenses.
The survey of 514 VFI members, conducted late last month by business consultants BDO on behalf of the VFI, found that 96 per cent of them operate stand-alone pubs while 4 per cent are part of a chain.
Nearly a third, or 30.8 per cent, describe their businesses as gastropubs, with the remainder being traditional bars.
John Clendennen, the new president of the VFI, said that pubs are striving to become established visitor destinations and vital economic pillars in local areas.
The industry was one of the hardest hit by restrictions imposed in response to the public health emergency, with representative organisations warning of potential closures or reduced working hours following the pandemic.
“In 2020, it felt as if our world was coming to an end. Through an abundance of resilience, innovation and diversity in product offering, we came through the crisis,” he said.
“Pubs are no longer simply competing with the bar down the road, but with everything from gym membership to television subscriptions, live events and foreign holidays as people choose where to spend their hard-earned disposable income.
He added: “Across the country, pubs have been inventive, many becoming visitor destinations for tourists from at home and abroad, attracting and keeping money and jobs in the country.”
Mr Clendennen said the Irish pub is a “cultural institution”, but that publicans face “a huge battle to keep their businesses viable over the coming years”.
“Key supports such as keeping VAT at 9 per cent, and energy interventions, are crucial to the pub trade and the wider hospitality sector,” he added.
“Insurance remains an ongoing headache for our members so it is vital reforms in this area are implemented by Government.”
The VFI organisation will hold its 50th anniversary AGM in Co Meath on Tuesday.