Saturday 21 April 2018

Publicans want to call time on high cost of insurance cover

More than 400 publicans have travelled to Wexford Town for the 43rd annual conference
More than 400 publicans have travelled to Wexford Town for the 43rd annual conference
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Publicans are gathering this week for the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) AGM, and there's a major issue they want addressed - the rising cost of insurance.

More than 400 publicans have travelled to Wexford Town for the 43rd annual conference, where a big concern is the cost of doing business.

Commercial rates, energy costs and what some view as the soaring cost of personal injury cover top the agenda.

"Insurance costs is one of the bigger issues," Padraig Cribben, VFI chief executive, told the Irish Independent.

"What we're looking at is insurance costs going through the roof, and in some cases members are actually finding it difficult to get cover."

Mr Cribben said the problem is two-fold: the level of awards by the judiciary, and the level of legal costs being applied.

He said there was a recent injury case that resulted in a compensation payout of €200,000, and the legal costs on top of that amounted to €100,000. "That's a major problem. That particular individual saw his premium go up by 800pc and that will probably put him out of business," Mr Cribben said.

He said an annual premium can range from between €4,000 and €10,000 for a pub with no food or entertainment, to well in excess of that for those that have a nightclub attached.

"Pick a figure," he said. "I spoke to somebody last week, and they run a late bar on a Saturday night and their premium was over €80,000 per year."

VFI members are calling for a strengthening of the role of the Personal Injuries Board.

Commercial rates are also a major problem, Mr Cribben said, claiming that many publicans are still paying the same rates as they were during the boom years, and yet in some cases their turnover is around 60pc of what it was then.

Other motions being discussed include efforts to enhance the tourist offering of the Irish pub, and a push to lobby the Government to ensure all alcohol sales be sold in individual units rather than multi-packs.

"There is a belief that with very big multi packs that it is encouraging heavily discounted alcohol, which is not good for our sector, and if you listen to health professionals, it is not good for the health of the nation either," Mr Cribben added.

The VFI was in the spotlight earlier in the year over the proposed merger between it and the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), but talks broke down.

It had been expected that an amalgamated body would be in place by the middle of this year, with LVA boss Donall O'Keeffe identified as CEO designate.

That would have unified representation for Dublin pubs, for which the LVA currently acts, and rural pubs, which are mostly represented by the VFI, for the first time in over three decades.

But it is understood there were issues around the level of Mr O'Keeffe's salary.

Mr Cribben said there were many factors at play.

"There were a number of issues that led to it breaking down and it just wasnt't to be. We'll try to move forward and use the value and the valuable learnings that we've got from it," he said.

Asked if the issue will be debated at the conference, Mr Cribben said: "I have no doubt that it will be a topic of discussion.

"It's one of those things that didn't happen. But we still continue to work very closely with the LVA on issues of mutual interest."

The process, he said, had been "suspended for now".

Irish Independent

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