The Government needs to announce ‘support, not sympathy’ for the sector this week, stated the representative body for pubs outside Dublin which was reacting to a survey of publicans whose pubs remain closed.
Two-thirds of these pubs (65%) not allowed to open their doors by order of the Government believe that they’ll go out of business by January 2021 based on current conditions although over one in five (22%) believe that they could survive for at least a year.
96% believe that the Government does not have a plan that will allow non-food pubs to re-open while the crisis persists while 92% believe pubs have been scapegoated during this crisis.
Almost half (48%) of the pubs still closed have accrued debts of €16,000 or more since the lockdown began, while one in five (19%) have accumulated debts of at least €30,000 during the period their doors have had to stay closed.
The largest single grouping (18%) had accrued debt of €6,000 to €10,000 while 16% had accrued debts of €11,000 to €15,000, with only 6% having no debt.
The VFI survey indicated that 91% of them are not satisfied with the Government’s handling of this crisis and 82% no longer support the Government.
The survey of 1,539 VFI members (whose pubs were still closed on the afternoon of Thursday the 20th of August) was organised ahead of the Government decision on whether the 3,500 pubs still closed across the country can re-open on Monday the 31st of August, with Cabinet due to discuss this issue in the coming days.
The survey, was also undertaken before news of the Oireachtas Golf Society event broke.
In light of the public health conditions, most in the industry believe the re-opening will be delayed for a third time at the end of the month and the focus is on what plan the Government will bring forward for those pubs who’ll remain closed by order of the Government. A further three-week delay in re-opening would mean that these pubs will have been closed for six months, with approximately 25,000 employed by these businesses having been unable to work throughout that period.
95% of the pubs still closed believe they’ll need grant-aid provided for each week of closure for their pub to survive. Only three out of 10 would be in favour of low interest loans.
Just under seven in 10 (69%) want to see grant-aid provided for each week of closure while 53% want an extension of the wage subsidy scheme.
63% of the publicans whose pubs are still closed are now suffering from ‘extreme stress’ with four in 10 worried about being able to put food on the table. 57% are worried about the future of their employees while six out of 10 are considering closing their business for good.
Only 1 in 25 (4%) describe themselves as ‘content’.
“This survey highlights how much the pubs that are still closed feel abandoned by the Government,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “They feel like they’ve been cast adrift with no support and only shallow declarations of ‘sympathy’. There’s little expectation that the Government will allow these pubs to re-open next week. So the question is what are they going to do for these pubs who’re being deprived from opening their doors by Government order? If they are being asked, as the Government has put it, to ‘make national sacrifice’ then the Government must have a plan that recognises that sacrifice and allows these businesses to survive. They need to announce support not sympathy this week.”
VFI President Padraic McGann added, “The stark reality is that most of these businesses are just about hanging-on. Half of the pubs still closed are accumulating debts of about €3,000 or more every month their doors remain shut by order of the Government. That is completely unsustainable and it is no surprise that two thirds believe they will go out of business for good on or before next January.
“That’s a really significant number and it’s no wonder so many publicans describe themselves as suffering from extreme stress and worrying about the future of their employees.
“The key now is what is the Government going to do to keep the sector going? The Tánaiste said if the Government further delays the re-opening of pubs he wants to see a plan announced to help these pubs survive. So do we.
“The focus is on what steps the Government now takes or whether their national strategy for dealing with the pandemic is to just drive these business to the wall,” he concluded.