PROPERTY transaction levels in the Dublin pub trade were the highest since the economic downturn, but were still less than half what they were in the boom as the market begins to show signs of stabilising.
According to the estate agents Morrissey's, who specialise in the pub and hotel industry, transaction activity in Dublin rose by two-thirds to 2.74pc of the whole market last year.
That compares to a 4.77pc churn rate during the boom, and is far below the rate that is required in a functioning market. Even so, the deal level beat the 10-year average in Dublin of 2.29pc.
The capital value of transactions in Dublin rose more than 50pc to €15.09m but that was a product more of the fact that more pubs were put on the market, rather than an increase in values. Indeed, the average value of pubs being sold actually fell from €800,000 to €760,000.
Most of the deals being done in the sector at the moment have been done on the instructions of a receiver, a trend that shows little sign of ending.
"Transaction activity has been subdued since 2008 under such market conditions with the volume of transactions well down compared to a more normalised market. To date transactions in the market have been predominantly distressed sales, which looks set to continue in the short to medium term," the agents said.
According to Morrissey's end-of-year report, there were 730 pubs operating in Dublin at the end of 2013, down 5.8pc from 2007. Nationwide the number of pubs in business has fallen 11pc since the crash.
Many of the pubs that have gone out of business have been caught in a perfect storm of a shrinking market coupled with property debts built up during the boom years.
"In real terms there is a rationalisation of the industry on the whole. Licensed premises in rural locations and locations where there are excessive numbers of licensed premises for the population that they are servicing are being affected the most," say Morrissey's.
The report makes grim reading for bars outside of the capital itself, highlighting the "polarisation of the market" with many regional licensed premises continuing to see the trade volumes sink.
"This is in contrast, generally speaking when compared to the Dublin region and the other main population centres in the country.
"It is now widely recognised that there is an oversupply nationally and that continued consolidation of the population of licensed premises nationally will remain a factor of the market and will ultimately contribute to a recovery of the industry," they say.
However, the report does strike an optimistic note for the year ahead.
"By the close of 2013 there were signs emerging of stabilisation in certain sectors of the market with anecdotal evidence of trade stabilisation and growth which is essentially dependent on the product offering, management and the geographical location of the licensed premises business in question.
"There is a sense of quiet optimism in the licensed sector and that the trade is emerging from a sustained period of significant turbulence albeit for businesses that are located in economically viable business locations."
On top of that, Morrissey's says there is now more liquidity in the market coming from both domestic banks and private equity.
"Accordingly it is becoming more straightforward for potential vendors, purchasers and professionals alike who have heretofore experienced difficulty in gauging 'sustainable and maintainable turnover' to be more accurate in forecasting the future trading prospect of a business and in turn the true market value of trading units," they say.