Friday 18 October 2019

Budget 2020: 'We’re getting crucified, the running costs of pubs has been savage' - publican Kieran Linnane

Thurles publican and Off Licence owner Kieran Linnane. Pic: Don Moloney
Thurles publican and Off Licence owner Kieran Linnane. Pic: Don Moloney

Aoife Walsh

Ahead of the Budget on Tuesday, Kieran Linnane of Millea’s pub in Thurles, Tipperary has called for a drop in the excise duty on beer and spirits.

Kieran purchased the pub in 1989 after returning to Ireland from London. 13 years after opening the pub, he converted the downstairs to an off-licence and moved the bar upstairs.

As well as a drop in tax, he would also like to see minimum unit pricing introduced as pubs and off-licences are finding it hard to compete with supermarkets who are selling alcohol at a cheaper rate.

“I’m 30 years in the pub trade. I’m 14 years in the off-licence trade. We came to Thurles in 1989. We came back from London and bought a pub,” he said.

Thurles publican and Off Licence owner Kieran Linnane. Pic: Don Moloney
Thurles publican and Off Licence owner Kieran Linnane. Pic: Don Moloney

“We bought the pub for the off-licence as part of it. When I came back to Thurles I leased the pub from Clonmel. I converted the pub here, I moved the pub upstairs, and put an off-licence downstairs. It’s just the way the trend was going, everyone seemed to be drinking at home. I tried to do something about it, so we thought the off-licence was the way to go," he explained.

“Eventually, the multiples caught up on the off-licences. At the minute now it is tough to compete with the multiples because it’s not a level playing field.

“With the Budget coming up, it’s very frustrating in this trade at the minute. The excise is way too much. In a period of 12 months from October 12 to September 13, the excise on beer went up by 44 pc, spirits 37 pc, wine 62 pc.

“It’s great to call in on the old reliable to bail it out when we were in financial difficulty, at the minute now we’re in difficulty. I need them to have a look at this because it was brought in as a temporary measure, like the Universal Social Charge, but it never went back. That was a huge hike at the time.

“Digi (Drinks Industry Group Ireland) are suggesting that if they drop it by 7 and-a-half pc this year and 7 and-a-half pc next year would be a huge help to it. I would think it needs to go further than that. Excise needs to come down a lot, from a pub point of view. Minimum unit price needs to be introduced now and excise needs to be reduced. That would really help the pubs because it would do two things.

“In the pubs, where we’re getting crucified, the running costs of pubs has been savage. We’re nearly being regulated out of business, and still can't give us support on it.

“From the off-licence point of view, absolutely the same thing. We need minimum unit pricing. It’s a must. We need it in before Christmas, or else we need to reign in the supermarkets.

The excise duty on a bottle of spirits, say a bottle of vodka, this is one that the supermarkets were doing, excise and vat was 12.30. The supermarkets were selling it for a tenner last Christmas.

“It’s a system that allows the supermarkets to reclaim VAT at the price they pay, and only compensate back on the VAT with the price they charge. It’s the taxpayer that’s subsiding the cheap alcohol.

“We only have one product, all we have is alcohol,” he said.

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