independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Fears for pub closures if taxes go up

Des Whelan behind the bar at the Wicked Swan.

The pub trade all across the country is anxiously awaiting Budget 2013. It has been a difficult couple of years for publicans, as people have less and less disposable income to spend on socialising and this has led to pubs shutting down all over the country.

Des Whelan, owner of the Wicked Swan in The Faythe in Wexford and district PRO for the Wexford Vintners Federation, has said that any increase on taxes would have disastrous consequences for Wexford's publicans.

'I think at the moment any increase in taxes would have a devastating effect on the trade,' Des said. ' Figures have shown that trade in pubs all over the country is down over 35% in the last five years. In the last year alone trade has dropped 7 to 8%. This can be seen in the amount of pub closures not just in Wexford but across the country. Guinness and Heineken have both already increased their prices in recent weeks and the trade cannot realistically sustain any more increases.'

Des, who has operated as a publican in Wexford for many years, has said that the recession has had a massive effect on publicans and the leisure industry as a whole will be anxiously awaiting the outcome of Michael Noonan's budget.

'Of course every business is feeling the pinch at the moment,' he said. 'The service and leisure industry will be feeling it in particular. People just don't have the disposable income any more. By the time they pay rent or mortgages and bills and put food on the table, there's not a whole lot left for enjoying themselves.'

On top of this, publicans also have to deal with the fact that prices of alcohol in supermarkets are dropping ever lower, causing people to drink more in their homes. Des feels that perhaps this is an area where tax should be increased.

'Personally I think that the price of drink in supermarkets and offlicences is much too low,' he said. 'It's leading to people drinking at home more, which I think creates more social problems. At least when drinking in a pub it's a controlled environment.'

Des will be one of several publicans across the county who will be hoping for a favourable outcome in the upcoming budget.

'We have our fingers crossed,' he said. 'We already have one of the highest rates of excise duty in the EU as it is. It will mean the closure of a lot more pubs if there is any increase. But at the end of the day we have no influence on the situation and we'll just have to wait and see. However, I've said it before, you can't tax your way out of a recession, and hopefully the minister will realise that when drawing up the Budget.'

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