A new report from the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) shows a total of 16 pubs in County Wicklow shut between 2005 and 2021, representing a decline of 10.1 per cent.
The stark The Irish Pub: Stopping the Decline report is based on the group’s analysis of Revenue license data, including an economic and social analysis by Dublin City University (DCU) economist Anthony Foley, shows a 21.2 per cent decline in the number of pubs in Ireland from 2005 to 2021.
All 26 counties experienced declines in pub numbers through the 16-year period. The largest decrease was seen in Laois with 30.6 per cent less pubs since 2005. This was the only county with a decrease of 30 per cent or more. The lowest decrease was in Meath with 1.4 per cent less. Meath was followed by Dublin, reporting a decrease of only 4.3 per cent. All the remaining 23 counties had decreases greater than 10 per cent.
Wicklow was one of three counties showing decreases of between 10 per cent and 14.9 per cent, along with Carlow and Kildare. Of the 16 Wicklow pubs shut from 2005 to 2021, 12 of the closures took place during the pandemic period.
Five counties were in the 15 per cent to 19.9 per cent decrease bracket, while all the remaining counties experienced decreases of more than 20 per cent.
The report highlights that many public houses operate at relatively low levels of sales volume. One of the factors which influence business sustainability at these low sales volumes, which is within the control of the Government, is the high Irish alcohol excise level which represents a significant cost on the business.
Paul Moynihan, who runs Moynihan’s pub in Donard, and is a DIGI member and the Vintners Federation of Ireland President and Wicklow publican, described the report as “alarming.”
He said: “A 21 per cent decline or 1,829 rural pub closures represent businesses that provide jobs, a hub in the local community for socialising and community integration and a cultural hub which is among the main attractions for tourists visiting Ireland.
“The pace of decline increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw the drinks and hospitality industry suffer the worst of all, with one of the longest lockdowns recorded globally.
“Considering this sharp decline and trend we’re witnessing in the reduction of the number of pubs in Ireland, we need to monitor this industry carefully and ensure the necessary supports are in place to help reverse this trend.
"Business owners in the drinks industry were challenged by two increases in alcohol excise tax in Budget 2012 and Budget 2013 as part of austerity measures which were never reversed.
"Our high alcohol excise tax is a cost and slows the growth of these businesses and impacts their day-to-day operations and bottom line. Exasperated currently with inflation and the cost of living. We are calling on the Government to reduce excise tax to support the industry with meaningful measures that will be felt immediately.”