Fears for rural pubs as over 1,000 fail to renew licences
Recession and new drink-driving limits forcing one bar a day to close
Published 19/08/2010 | 05:00
MORE than 1,000 rural pubs have not renewed their licence in the last 12 months amid fears most are simply shutting their doors due to the recession and new drink-driving limits.
No county in Ireland has been immune from pub closures, which have been averaging at one per day over the past three years, according to new figures.
Donegal and Cork have had the highest number of closures outside of Dublin, according to the statistics from the Revenue Commissioners. Even a small county such as Leitrim has lost 19 of its pubs.
In all, 1,289 publicans have opted against renewing their pub licence in the last 12 months--leading to concerns about rural isolation and diminishing community spirit.
Year-on-year, it now appears that one pub is effectively closing in Ireland every day.
More than 700 failed to renew their licences in 2008/2009.
This year, more than 550 of the 1,289 publicans still have a window of just six weeks to get their 2010 licence, according to the Revenue Commissioners.
Another 170 pub licences are a mix of transfers, revivals and new premises and could conceivably be renewed by the Revenue's deadline for 2010 of September 30.
But it is thought that many of the 569 publicans with 2009 licences have simply opted to close their doors. In Dublin, 146 publicans have not renewed their licence, followed by 137 in Cork, 106 in Donegal, 88 in Galway and 77 in Kerry. Every single county has lost pubs, with Carlow having the lowest rate of closures at 15.
The meltdown in pub trade has been blamed on the smoking ban, a reduction in drink-driving limits, the availability of cheap alcohol in supermarkets and the recent changes in the drink-driving limits.
Despite intense lobbying of Fianna Fail backbenchers by the organisation representing rural pub owners, the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI), controversial proposals from Transport Minister Noel Dempsey to lower the drink-driving limits were passed by TDs in the Dail earlier this year.
VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben said recent research by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland found pub sales had decreased by 14.6pc in the first five months of 2010.
"The decline of the industry has affected the live register to the tune of 20,000 people in the last few years," he said.
He added: "The pub industry blatantly needs support, not extra charges."
Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony has previously argued that lack of rural transport was also to blame for the huge "meltdown" in the pub sector.