The country’s rural pub population continues to diminish with some 71 rural pubs closing in 2018 alone according to industry analysis by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland.
The figure is a stark reminder of the continuing decline of the pub in rural Ireland where 1,535 (or nearly one in five) rural pubs closed their doors for the last time in the period between 2005 and 2018, with many being forced to shut-up shop during the recession.
DIGI’s analysis of Revenue figures shows that the rural pub population declined by almost a quarter in Tipperary (down by 118 pubs or 22.5%), Mayo (down by 98 pubs or 21%) and Cork (down by 313 pubs or 25.6% from 1221 to 908) in this same 2005-2018 period.
In contrast, Dublin experienced a net loss of just 10 pubs since 2005 or 1%.
Wicklow (down 1.9%), Meath (down 2.4%) and Kildare (down 9.9%) numbered among the counties with the lowest reported decline in pub numbers.
According to the report, the majority of these low-earning businesses are located in rural Ireland and are particularly vulnerable to taxation policy, any sudden tax increases, any decline in inward tourism and the economic uncertainty.
“For pubs in rural or isolated areas, the extremely high cost of alcohol excise tax puts them in a precarious position, limiting their ability to trade more successfully, continue to attract tourism and to invest in their business,” states the report, “The high cost of alcohol excise tax remains a source of significant concern for rural publicans and indeed, hoteliers, restauranteurs, off-licence owners and other drinks and hospitality business proprietors.
“Ireland has the second-highest overall alcohol excise tax in the EU, the highest excise tax on wine, the second-highest on beer and the third highest on spirits.”
The DIGI has therefore called on the Government to reduce alcohol excise tax by 15% over the next two years – 7.5% in Budget 2020 and then by an additional 7.5% in Budget 2021.
According to recent research conducted among 400 publicans by DIGI, more than three-quarters (77%) say their business plays an important part in providing a place for local people to come together for family occasions like birthdays, christenings and funerals.
68% of publicans say that their business sponsors a local team, charity or community group, while 63% say that their pub provides a space for elderly people living in isolation to socialise with others.
“Ireland’s rural pubs have been on a steady decline for years, despite their immense importance and contribution to local communities across the country,” commented the DIGI’s Chair and Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs at Irish Distillers Rosemary Garth, “Our high alcohol excise tax has played a role in this. DIGI is calling on the Government to take action to protect a vulnerable part of the Irish economy from further collapse.
“Easing the financial burden of excise tax over a two-year period is a clear signal of support and encouragement to these businesses in a time of economic uncertainty. With the now very real prospect of a no-deal Brexit, Government action and support have never been more important.”
Also speaking today, DIGI member and Chief Executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland Padraig Cribben found the 20% decline in rural pub figures “hugely worrying”.
He said, “This equates to 1,535 rural pubs which are businesses that provide jobs, a hub in the local community for socialising and community integration and a cultural powerhouse which is among the main attractions for tourists visiting Ireland.
“In Limerick alone, hospitality and drinks businesses enable 6,997 jobs while in Meath there are 205 pubs and 4,268 jobs supported by the industry. This demonstrates the scale of employment that this sector creates rurally.
“Considering this sharp decline in the number of pubs, we need to monitor this industry and ensure the necessary supports are in place to reverse this trend.
“While the Government committed to assist small rural businesses recover during the recession, business owners in the drinks industry were challenged by two increases in alcohol excise tax in Budget 2012 and Budget 2013.
“Our high alcohol excise tax slows the growth of these businesses and impacts their day-to-day operations and bottom line. We are calling on the Government to reduce excise tax to encourage the growth of our drinks and hospitality sector, return money to Irish consumers and make Ireland more competitive internationally, particularly ahead of a no-deal deal Brexit.”
Number of seven-day (public house) licences 2005 to 2018
|2005||2018||Decline, numbers||Decline %|
Source. Revenue licences data
A full breakdown of the licences renewed per county from 2005 to 2018 is as follows: