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24th Aug 2020

60 percent of Irish pubs considering closing their doors for good

Conor Heneghan

96 percent of publicans believe the government has no plan which would allow pubs that do not serve food to reopen.

Two out of three pubs in Ireland believe they will go out of business by January and three in every five pubs are considering closing their doors for good if current conditions continue.

That’s according to a survey by the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), who say that the government is losing the support of the pub sector and have called for ‘support, not sympathy’ for the sector this week.

The survey, which was completed by 1,539 publicans whose pubs remain closed, was organised ahead of a decision as to whether pubs can reopen next Monday (31 August), which is due to be discussed by Cabinet in the coming days.

Following the introduction of new public health measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 last week, including limiting household gatherings to six people, most in the pub industry believe the reopening of pubs will be delayed for a third time.

With that in mind, the focus, the VFI say, is on what plan the Government will bring forward for those pubs who will remain closed.

96 percent of those surveyed believe that the government has no plan that will allow pubs that don’t serve food to reopen while the Covid-19 crisis persists. Furthermore, 91 percent of publicans have not been satisfied with the government’s response to the crisis and 92 percent believe pubs have been scapegoated.

The VFI were also keen to point out that the survey was conducted before news of the Oireachtas Golf Society event in Clifden last week came to light.

Asked in the survey to estimate when their pub would go out of business under current conditions, 65 percent said they expected it to happen by January 2021. A further 13 percent said it would happen sometime between February and June of next year, with only 22 percent of publicans surveyed saying their pub could survive for at least a year.

On top of that, just under half (48 percent) of the pubs still closed have accrued debts of €16,000 or more since the lockdown began, with 10 percent accruing debts of over €50,000.

The survey revealed that 95 percent of affected pubs still believe they will need grant aid provided for each week of closure for their pub to survive, while only three out of 10 would be in favour of low interest loans.

63 percent of the publicans whose pubs are still closed said they are suffering from extreme stress.

Six out of 10 publicans said they are considering closing their businesses for good, 40 percent said they are worried about being able to put food on the table, while 57 percent are worried about the future of their employees, some 25,000 of whom have not been able to work while the pubs have remained closed.

“This survey highlights how much the pubs that are still closed feel abandoned by the Government,” said Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive of the VFI.

“They feel like they have been cast adrift with no support and only shallow declarations of ‘sympathy’. There is little expectation that the Government will allow these pubs to reopen next week. So the question is, what are they going to do for these pubs who are being deprived from opening their doors by Government order?

“If they are being asked, as the Government has put it, to ‘make a national sacrifice’ then the Government must have a plan that recognises that sacrifice and allows these businesses to survive. They need to announce support not sympathy this week.”

“The stark reality is that most of these businesses are just about hanging on,” said VFI President, Padraic McGann.

“Half of the pubs still closed are accumulating debts of about €3,000 or more every month their doors remain shut by order of the Government. That is completely unsustainable and it is no surprise that two thirds believe they will go out of business for good on or before next January.”

“The key now is what is the Government going to do to keep the sector going,” McGann added.

“The Tánaiste said if the Government further delays the reopening of pubs he wants to see a plan announced to help these pubs survive. So do we. The focus is on what steps the Government now takes or whether their national strategy for dealing with the pandemic is to just drive these business to the wall.”