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30 pubs closed in New Ross since the 1990s in major shift in drinking culture

Only 12 pubs remain in New Ross town centre. What future for the once thriving sector?


Wellingtonbridge Publican Michael Wallace

Wellingtonbridge Publican Michael Wallace

Wellingtonbridge Publican Michael Wallace

Wellingtonbridge Publican Michael Wallace


Wellingtonbridge Publican Michael Wallace


FOR a town that once had among the highest concentration of pubs per head of population, New Ross now only has ten.

Vintner’s chairman Michael Wallace said with rising costs and falling footfall, this number could dwindle further this year, if something isn’t done.

Speaking at his Tír na n Óg pub in Wellingtonbridge, Mr Wallace said: “There were 42 pubs in New Ross in 1992 when I bought some premises in the town. Now there are 12, plus two on the outskirts: Mannion’s in Mountelliott and Scully’s in The Maudlins.”

”They were very good times in New Ross, the Nineties; up and coming times. The mood is flat among publicans there now with all the changes that have come about. A pub licence; it’s like taxi regulation now. In the past a taxi licence could have been worth €200,000; a pub licence wouldn’t have been too far behind it. You would be lucky to get €30,000 or €40,000 now for a licence.”

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Among the challenges facing Wexford publicans is getting staff.

“Most people now are finished work at 5 p.m. They don’t want to be in a pub at 12 or 1 in the morning and there aren’t many in pubs anymore. I would think a lot of pubs in New Ross are on their knees at this stage.”

Mr Wallace questioned the Government and local authority’s approach to New Ross. “They’re pumping money into New Ross, but it’s into steps. How many people will stay in New Ross next summer? The biggest tourism driver is hotel beds; that will bring more people in than the Kennedy’s or the Normans or steps. There is only one pub on the quay in New Ross now.”

He said great work has been done in the town, but not enough to bring people in.

Mr Wallace named the remaining Ross pubs: The Green Door on Mary Street, The Theatre Tavern and Spider O’Brien’s on South Street, The Rag on Conduit Lane, The Ross Inn on Michael Street, Corcoran’s and Pauline’s in the Irishtown, Murray’s on North Street, thee Three Bullet Gate pub, Richie Roche’s on the quay and Byrne’s and Nolan’s on Quay Street.

“That’s 12 pubs with two on the outskirts, O’Brien’s (Scully’s) and Mannion’s.”

He said Government plans to boost the sector may drive it under even further in rural south Wexford.

“They are talking about letting pubs stay open till 1 a.m. and any nightclub stay open till 6 a.m., but this could have the opposite effect in places like rural Wexford. They are also talking about giving out licences willy nilly. English firms are coming in selling cheap drink and food and taking business away from others. In around 30 pubs in New Ross have closed in 25 years. That is a town in total decline because it’s been left in decline. Yes, a lot is happening in New Ross but you need more hotels, B&Bs and more jobs.”

He said business over Christmas pubs was very good but things are getting deathly quiet.

“Many pubs are closed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. They still have high insurance rates and other costs. We need a lot more clarity about what the Government has planned for the sector. Has the minister visited New Ross lately? They need to give some help to small pubs in small towns and villages. If you go into any pub a 7 or 8 most are totally dead. Something needs to be done.”

Mr Wallace said his ESB bill for his pub/restaurant has risen from €1,400 last year to €6,500 now.

“That is a big reason why pubs have closed. The price increases; while they are bad, everyone knows what they are for. It’s because the big beer companies haven’t put up their prices in recent years. Now they have increased fuel and other prices. Heineken went up on December 1 and Guinness is going up on February 2, so it will be passed on (to the customer) naturally enough.”

Heating is another expense which has more than trebled over the past two years.

“I do food and that keeps me ticking over. I am also lucky that I’m situated beside a funeral home. There is trade through death, but someone has to get that.”

He said the Covid effect has seen the decimation of the family party trade, with far fewer 18th, 21st, 60th, 60th birthday celebrations happening in pubs.

“A lot of older customers haven’t come back either. I haven’t seen some in three years. They are fearful of going out and meeting others.”
He said rising staff wages aren’t the biggest problem, it’s getting staff.

“A lot of people changed jobs during Covid and got day work. So many publicans in Wexford want out. If you are not taking enough money in you are at nothing.”