Pub owners drive 50km a night to get customers home safely
A RURAL publican couple make a 50km round-trip every night to make sure their customers get home safely.
Mike and Geraldine Parker have been doing this in their seven-seater 4x4 for the past 15 years.
Mr Parker is the third generation of his family to run the business in Kilflynn, north Kerry, which was started by his grandfather 90 years ago.
In a week when the spotlight has been thrown on rural isolation and loneliness, following the support of a controversial drink-driver permit for rural people by Kerry County Council, Mr Parker has come up with an alternative suggestion.
He would like to see some sort of tax break introduced to help with transportation costs where public transport is not an option.
His call is backed by the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI).
Figures from the VFI show 1,108 pubs – almost 13pc of the total number of pubs – have gone to the wall since 2005.
Mr Parker says his nightly drop-off service is something he and his wife are prepared to provide to ensure their livelihoods.
"Why not bring in tax exemptions for rural publicans, like take the VRT off diesel people carriers or 14-seater minibuses or allow us to use tax-exempt fuel?" he suggested.
Kilflynn is 11km from Tralee and 18km from Listowel, so getting a taxi would add at least another €12 on to the cost of a night out for his customers.
"It's not just about the drink either. We have the lottery draw on a Monday night, darts on Wednesday and we do quizzes as well.
"Some of our customers have minerals and crisps for the night but it's the social aspect of it. They have somewhere to go where they're meeting other people, young and old," he said.
VFI president and owner of Rafter Dempsey's in Kilkenny, Gerry Raftery, said he backed Mr Parker's proposal, but a submission to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar was turned down last year.
"The junior minister Alan Kelly has been talking about issuing licences for rural hackneys for some time, but we really need to see some meat on the bones now before even more pubs close," he said.