The closure of pubs because of the Coronavirus has come as this sector of the property market was beginning to see a revival, not alone in Dublin and some major urban centres but also in some rural areas.
Before the virus the Society of Chartered Surveyors 'Commercial Property Review & Outlook 2020' surveyed members and they forecast that prices for rural pubs and pubs in rural villages could increase by 5pc this year. This would follow increases in a number of sectors of the pubs market in 2019.
After years in the doldrums, SCSI members had reported increases of 10pc in the capital values of secondary pubs in provincial towns during 2019. Pubs in a range of other sectors, including principal towns as well as prime roadhouses, increased by 5pc in 2019. Restaurant values nationally also increased by 5pc in 2019.
Edward McAuley, head of practice and policy at SCSI, admitted surprise at such optimistic forecasts as even earlier this year they seemed counter-intuitive. "Those agents who expressed a view believed that the largest increases might be seen among good quality pubs in areas with a high tourist footfall," he added.
Indeed the turnaround in the pub trade was also reflected in a recent Geodirectory survey. As many as 107 bars were added to its database during the 10 years to the end of 2019 bringing the total to almost 3,600. It found that Dublin, with 89 new bars, accounted for 83pc of the bars added in Geodirectory's study area, followed by Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and Louth with 51 units. Co Cork added 11 premises and Kilkenny five.
However, sharp falls were seen in counties Galway (26), Limerick (20) and Waterford (three) over the 10 years.
The SCSI survey also noted that the performance of this sector continued to be shaped by changing legislation and the tightening of rules regarding drink-driving across all parts of Ireland.
"Aside from pubs in larger towns the trade in licensed premises has been decimated for somewhere between the last five and seven years," an SCSI member said.
On the positive side values held up for pubs which focused more on food or attracting tourists to compensate for falling levels of drinking.
While the immediate outlook for the trade looks bad, one would presume that Irish people will embrace their pubs even more when they celebrate the resumption of social contact in post Covid-19 society.
An interesting test of the market will be the sale of Becky Morgan's pub on Grand Canal Street Lower, Dublin 2. When launched on the market in February, agents CBRE quoted €1.3m for the purpose-built three-storey over basement premises.
It reports good interest from prospective purchasers and CBRE's John Ryan expects to invite best bids in the coming weeks.