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Rising costs and drink laws get blame for demise

LISTOWEL was a town known for having a pub for every week of the year, back in the days of fleadhs and festivals of the late 1980s.

Today there are no more than 20 bars and one hotel in the Kerry town.

Local vintners' representative Christy Walsh, of the Well Bar, says that out of that 20, about six are reliant on their food trade to remain in business.

"If you're talking of your genuine bar, there are about 12 or 14 left and half of them don't open until the evening."

He puts it down to a range of factors, not just the drink-driving legislation.

"For a start, we had too many pubs for the population (just less than 4,000), but Listowel has a good hinterland with the small villages around like Moyvane and Ballylongford."

The drink-driving legislation has played its part, but so has rising costs.

"There was the increase in the cost of light and heat, too," Mr Walsh said.

He says in north Kerry the amount of pubs has halved in eight years.

"Excluding Listowel and Ballybunion, there were 50 pubs eight years ago and now there are about 25.

"The smoking ban was one thing, but the big clampdown on drink driving in 2005/2006 was a factor. There were people getting breathalysed after two or three pints, checkpoints everywhere. Then they started checking people on Saturday and Monday mornings. That killed the Friday and Sunday night trade," he said.

On the other side of the country, however, Kilkenny seems to have bucked the trend, not only with a lack of pub closures in the city, but with the opening of a new bar and restaurant there last week.

The Blue Bar on Patrick Street is owned by Gerry Byrne, of the Hibernian Hotel and Left Bank, two existing licensed premises in the city.

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