Sunday 17 February 2019

'We're losing our culture' - nightclubs shut and prices soar due to insurance costs

Pub and club owners say 'spurious claims' are decimating the nightlife industry

Frustrated: Noel Anderson, managing director of Lemon & Duke in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Frustrated: Noel Anderson, managing director of Lemon & Duke in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Pub and club owners are being forced to close dance floors and increase alcohol prices in an attempt to offset rising insurance premiums.

They claim that the cost of defending "spurious" claims which are "decimating" the nightlife industry are forcing them to take drastic action.

Noel Anderson, managing director of Lemon & Duke, in Dublin city centre, says he has completely changed the model of his business in an attempt to combat soaring insurance costs. Mr Anderson collaborated with Irish rugby stars Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip and brothers Rob and Dave Kearney to open Lemon & Duke in 2016.

He has ditched the dance floor and late opening times for a more insurance-friendly option.

"The late-night club scene is coming to an end now and it's become too risky to have a dance floor. Our closing time is now around 1.30am, whereas we used to stay open later. If you're staying open past 1.30am you're leaving yourself open to trouble," he told the Irish Independent.

"Around eight years ago we had a trip and fall case at one of the venues I manage and it caused our insurance to go through the roof.

"The guy had a pre-existing injury and it took five years for the case to go through the courts. We ended up settling on the day in the High Court.

"That meant our insurance was going up every year as the cost of it was sitting on the premium."

Despite taking action to close the dance floor, the venue's insurance premium is a staggering €36,000 more than it was eight years ago.

Mr Anderson is a member of the Licensed Vintners Association and has been working together with the Alliance for Insurance Reform to try to highlight how insurance costs are "killing" small businesses in Ireland.

"All this is having a knock-on effect on the nightclub industry, the industry is being decimated," he said. "There are genuine claims out there and accidents happen, people make mistakes and you have to accept liability, but there is a lot of nonsense going on too.

"Insurance costs are killing the industry and the small-business owner. You see people complaining about how expensive drinks are in Dublin and how they have to pay nearly €10 for a gin and tonic, but between rates and excessive insurance costs, you have to charge that much for drinks or you won't survive."

Another owner of a popular Dublin bar, who gave a presentation in the Dáil on some of the "ridiculous" compensation claims he's been forced to defend, says the Government needs to start tackling the issue head on.

He showed CCTV of an incident where a customer was punched in the face by a friend. However, the customer said she slipped on the floor in the venue, damaged her teeth and tried to claim more than €8,000 in medical expenses.

After watching the CCTV footage, the bar owners realised she hadn't fallen and had got into a row with her friend.

She dropped the case after being informed of what the CCTV showed.

"We had another case involving two teachers, we dubbed that case the 'dancing queens'. It was around Christmas time and one of them fell, cracked her tooth and wanted to see the CCTV as she wanted to bring a claim. She said she fell on a slippery floor but we had evidence showing otherwise. Her friend was holding her dancing and let her go and when we showed her what actually happened, she ran out of the pub."

A former nightclub owner in Co Tipperary told how he had to close down his business because he couldn't afford the insurance costs after a string of compensation claims by customers. The 58-year-old, who owned a club that had been in his family for 120 years, shut the club down in the summer of 2016 as it was costing him €35,000 to insure the premises each year.

Irish Independent

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