Vintners call for restrictions to be fully lifted amid ‘unprecedented’ pub closures

Sector seeks clarity as 350 pubs close in State since start of last year

 Analysis by the Revenue Commissioners shows Cork has lost 37 pubs, Dublin and Donegal have both lost lost 33 and Kerry has seen 22 pubs not renewing their licences. Photograph: PA

Analysis by the Revenue Commissioners shows Cork has lost 37 pubs, Dublin and Donegal have both lost lost 33 and Kerry has seen 22 pubs not renewing their licences. Photograph: PA

 

Almost 350 pubs have closed in the State since the start of last year and the sector has called for clarity about how Covid-19 restrictions are to be altered from next Friday.

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) said there were between 7,100 and 7,200 pub licence renewals since about 2015, but that the pandemic had seen them plummet by 349 to 6,788.

VFI spokesman Brian Foley said remaining restrictions on the sector needed to be eased in order to help businesses in the sector move on from pandemic related disruption. The Cabinet is due to decide how to proceed with the latest phase of reopening when it meets on Tuesday amid concern over high recent numbers of Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations.

“As recently as last Wednesday both the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach said the lifting of restrictions was going to happen so it has been quite a dramatic change in sentiment. We still don’t know what is going to happen,” he said.

“The uncertainty around the lifting of restrictions is impacting staffing because people don’t know if they are coming back to a secure job or not.

“We thought we were on a fairly straightforward track towards the lifting of all restrictions. It will be devastating if the restrictions aren’t lifted on Friday. What do we have to reach for restrictions to be lifted?”

Licence renewals

The figures showing a 5 per cent decrease in pub licence renewals, published on Sunday, were taken from an analysis of licence renewals published by the Revenue Commissioners.

It shows Cork has lost 37 pubs, Dublin and Donegal have both lost lost 33 and Kerry has seen 22 pubs not renewing their licences.

In a joint statement, the VFI and Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), which represents pubs in Dublin, said given that more than 90 per cent of over-18s are vaccinated, the retention of the vaccine pass system should allow for the reopening of late-night hospitality, end mandatory table service, resume bar counter service and allow pubs to trade under normal opening hours.

Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the VFI, said the loss of 5 per cent of pubs since the pandemic hit was “unprecedented”.

“It underlines how the pub trade bore the brunt of pandemic restrictions,” he said. “Uncertainty is a key factor in why so many pubs have closed so Government must put an end to the crisis by announcing the easing of restrictions will proceed as planned.”

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said it was worrying is that so many pubs had closed, even with Government supports in place.