Struggling pub sector uses web to woo punters
The industry is fighting back as more bars face closure, writes Ralph Reigel
STRUGGLING Irish pubs are desperately trying to woo people out of their homes and back into bars using the internet.
And the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) has warned that Ireland will continue to haemorrhage alcohol-related revenue and pub industry jobs unless the Government relaxes draconian restrictions.
The VFI warned that more than 550 pubs are expected to shut down this year -- with a staggering 3,000 pub-industry jobs already lost in the first six months of 2010.
In the case of some pubs, revenue is estimated to be down by 60 per cent on spending levels of five years ago.
In a desperate attempt to attract customers, publicans have set up the PubRepublik website, which is aimed at helping the pub and hotel trade reach a wider audience and to promote novel events and festivals to persuade people to socialise outside their homes.
The website was set up by south Tipperary-based Paul Upstone, who is the son of a pub owner.
"We hear of the doom and gloom, pub doors closing for good. Yet so many landlords are striving to provide better facilities and should be celebrated," said Mr Upstone.
"Even in today's climate, we all still love to get out and have a drink with friends and family.
"If I am going somewhere different, I sometimes like to know what is on offer beforehand and PubRepublik allows people to do just that," he explained.
The new site effectively operates as a search engine for the Irish pub and hotel trade and allows venues fighting to increase their customer base to outline their attractions.
The site was initially launched in Cork but is now being rolled out for a 32-county usership.
The initiative has been warmly welcomed by the pub industry, which claimed it is now facing the worst crisis in its history. The VFI warned that if the current crisis persists, job losses could reach the 5,000-mark by 2011.
The VFI -- which represents 4,500 pubs in 26 counties -- said publicans had never experienced such a financial maelstrom.
VFI official Con Dennehy, who is a Cork publican, acknowledged that he had never before witnessed a crisis on such a scale.
"I have never seen anything this bad before in my lifetime -- pubs are closing down all over the place," he said.
In Cork alone, 130 pubs have shut down over the course of the past year, with 550 expected to shut down outside Dublin in 2010.
In contrast, just 109 pubs failed to renew their licences in Cork in the three-year period between 2007 and 2009.