Number of pubs down by 1,300 over last five years
THE NUMBER of pub licences has fallen by 1,300 over the past five years amid claims by publicans’ groups that the cheap availability of alcohol is causing the “death of the Irish pub”.
A breakdown of figures compiled by the Revenue Commissioners shows that the decline in pub licences has been sharpest in counties Cork, Dublin, Mayo, Kerry and Limerick.
The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), which claims to represent about 4,500 members outside the Dublin area, said pubs in rural areas represent the majority of pubs closing in recent years.
VFI president Gerry Mellett said a combination of below-cost selling by supermarkets, stricter drink-driving laws and the smoking ban has led to a major decline in trade across the sector.
“The removal of restrictions on below-cost selling has really broken the back of the industry because they’re selling at prices that we can never compete with,” Mr Mellett said.
“When you combine this with stricter drink-driving regulations and the smoking ban, we’re making it increasingly difficult for people to socialise. The authorities seem intent on over-regulating everything,”
There were a total of 7,616 pub licences in 2010, according to the Revenue Commissioners, down from 8,922 in 2005.
The number of pubs increased marginally in a handful of counties, mostly so-called commuter belt area around Dublin such as Kildare and Meath.
The federation said below-cost selling of alcohol needs to be addressed urgently by the Government, while it supported calls by Opposition parties for rural transport schemes for customers in isolated areas.
“It is no exaggeration to say the closure of rural pubs in particular is having a devastating effect on the fabric of life in rural Ireland,” said Mr Mellett.
“In many areas the pub functions as an important community focal point, and provides a great social hub for many people.
“Pub closures have inhibited social lives, and have disrupted the community spirit and life of many neighbourhoods.”
The federation said it was important that local businesses such as pubs, hotels and the farming community were supported and that better services were put in place in the regions to attract investment, create jobs and encourage people to live and spend locally.
“Action needs to be taken immediately to prevent more rural pub closures to stave off rural isolation,” the VFI said in a statement.
The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland said figures also show that while the drinks market has increased by just over 6 per cent in the first seven months of 2010, sales in the “on-trade” in pubs and hotels have fallen by almost 15 per cent.
The group’s secretary and chief executive of the Licenced Vintners’ Association, Donall O’Keeffe, said the decline represented a “meltdown” for the sector. “This decline in 2010 comes on top of an 8.8 per cent decline in 2009.
“Of particular concern are the ongoing prospects of weak consumer demand for the immediate future and the ongoing cost pressure being generated by Government-related costs such as commercial rates and regulation,” he said, in a statement.
“The sector is in a crisis situation. This is part of a wider trend of decline in the on-trade over the last decade that has seen the volume of bar sales fall 25 per cent since 2000.”
He called for greater Government support to protect a sector which supports thousands of jobs and provide almost €2 billion in VAT and excise revenue to the State.
CLOSING TIME PUB LICENCES LOST:
The breakdown by county of the number of pub licences lost over a three-year period: