Coronavirus: Cork businesses call for rates moratorium to help cope with trade decline

Publicans estimate trade in city pubs is down by 60-70% as people avoid social gatherings

VFI visited one Cork pub with a capacity for 300 people which had no customers during the survey time of 9.15pm to 10pm on Thursday night. Photograph: iStock

VFI visited one Cork pub with a capacity for 300 people which had no customers during the survey time of 9.15pm to 10pm on Thursday night. Photograph: iStock

 

Business owners and publicans have called on Cork City Council to grant business people in the city a moratorium on rates to help them cope with the fall off in business caused by coronavirus as people stay at home.

Cork Business Association president Eoin O’Sullivan said the association had written to Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty seeking a moratorium on rates for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic in Ireland.

“We are calling on Cork City Council to introduce a moratorium on commercial rates during this Covid-19 outbreak . . . This is to give the business community in Cork the breathing space to survive during these challenging times,” he said.

Mr O’Sullivan’s comments were echoed by chair of the Cork city branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), Michael O’Donovan, who said publicans in the city were facing a difficult period as people avoid social gatherings.

Mr O’Donovan instanced the experience of Cork publicans prior to the Government recommending that all mass gatherings of 100 people in indoor settings be abandoned or cancelled until the end of the month.

He said people were already staying at home for fear of contracting Covid-19 as evidenced by a survey which the Cork Branch of the VFI conducted on some 19 city centre pubs on Wednesday night.

VFI members visited the 19 pubs in the heart of the city in areas such as Patrick Street, Oliver Plunkett Street, Washington Street and North and South Main Street and found concerns over the virus were having an impact.

He said they reckoned the 19 pubs had a combined capacity of 4,000 and they anticipated that on a Wednesday night with Liverpool playing Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, 1,800 to 2,000 people would be out socialising.

Instead they found that a total of just 231 people were out in pubs watching the game with some establishments including one with a capacity for 300 people had no customers during the survey time of 9.15pm to 10pm.

Mr O’Donovan confirmed that he had written to all 31 councillors on Cork City Council, setting out the vintners’ concerns and urging them to assist them during this difficult trading period as they strive to retain business.

“Yesterday alone (Tuesday), pubs in the city are reporting a drop of 60 to 70 per cent in trade which as you know is not sustainable in any business,” said Mr O’Donovan, whose branch represents over 200 publicans in the city.

“We know that the chief medical officer is advising the citizens of the country in the best manner but with so many working from home, even Cheltenham festivities saw a significant drop in the numbers coming to pubs yesterday.”

Mr O’Donovan said with this trend likely to continue for the foreseeable future, the VFI were seeking council support to get Cork City Hall to defer the sending out of commercial rate invoices until Covid-19 has passed.

He said they were also hoping the council would take into account the drop off in pub trade and would introduce a pro-rata reduction in commercial rates for the duration of the outbreak.