More than 800 restaurants facing closure
AROUND 2,000 restaurants are now operating at a loss and hundreds could be forced to shut if the Government doesn't take action to reduce costs for the sector.
The Restaurants' Association of Ireland has warned there is no sign of an uplift and the only way many eateries can keep going is if action is taken to reduce regulatory costs such as rent, wages and waste charges.
China Sichuan, one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in Dublin for over 25 years, has become the latest victim of the downturn.
The restaurant, which recently moved from its longtime premises in Stillorgan to Sandyford Industrial Estate, has posted a sign saying it is closed until further notice.
Restaurants have been doing everything they can to cut costs, reduce prices and trade their way through the worst of the recession, but there has been no progress in relation to costs where the Government plays a role, said association chief executive Adrian Cummins.
There are around 2,500 licensed restaurants in the country, but over 80pc of them are operating at a loss, he said.
That means some 2,000 are in difficulty, and while over 200 have already fallen victim to the recession, without urgent assistance up to 800 could be forced to close by the summer.
High-profile recent victims include Mint in Ranelagh, Bang Cafe in Dublin 2, Lock's in Portobello, Dublin, and Flava in Kilkenny.
Carluccio's cafe on Dawson Street, Dublin, looked set to follow suit when it closed its doors earlier this month citing unreasonable rent, but its landlord finally agreed to reduce the rent.
And with 86,000 people set to join the live register this year, the prospects for recovery for the sector were not good for 2010, said Mr Cummins.
"We see no signs of a pick-up yet, and we need measures to ease the pressure so that places can keep going until the upturn eventually comes," he said. In particular, the valuations of local authority rates were in desperate need of an overhaul -- for example, one restaurant in north Dublin had seen its rates bill soar from €22,000 to €64,000 this year.
The Government should also require the Joint Labour Committees, which set restaurant wages above the minimum wage rate, to address the issue of inability to pay in order to stop places going to the wall, Mr Cummins said.