'4,800 jobs at risk' as pub sales plummet
UP to 800 pubs are in serious financial trouble as they face the new year, putting more than 4,800 jobs at risk, the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) has warned.
The VFI said 2012 was "one of the worst years on record for our members" as breweries increased prices and the authorities increased taxes.
"We face into another 12 months under a Government that doesn't appreciate the role we play and with some suppliers that don't appreciate the business that we give," the VFI said.
Consumers are drinking less as incomes shrink, the population ages and concerns about heath grow.
They are also switching to off-licences where alcohol is cheaper and there is more choice.
The VFI called on Finance Minister Michael Noonan to slap a 15pc tax on off-licence sales in this month's Budget.
He ignored the calls and increased the cost of a bottle of wine by €1 and added other taxes for drinks such as champagne.
Trade among publicans was down by one-third in the past five years, the VFI said. "Without doubt, the announcements made in Budget 2013 will put further pressure on a consumer that is already struggling and has no confidence in their purchasing power.
"When we should be encouraging people to spend and to support local business, we have driven them away," the VFI added.
In a downbeat statement that contrasts with many other retail organisations that are reporting an increase in sales and profits, the VFI blamed the Government for failing to understand the industry.
"The year just gone saw our Government put further pressure on an industry already on its knees with a massive increase in excise," the lobby group added.
The VFI says it represents 4,000 pubs outside Dublin, which support more than 54,000 jobs.
"At a time when we should be celebrating, there is a dark cloud over these 54,000 jobs.
"Successive governments have watched as the corner shop, the local post office, rural schools and garda stations have been driven to the wall and the present administration seems happy to do the same to the Irish pub," it added.