Licensed to lead

Laura Moriarty has recently been appointed chair of the Licensed Vintners Association. With a prominent career in hospitality and retail, she is in a good position to head up the LVA through an important year ahead when the association will be lobbying for the successful implementation of the Sale of Alcohol Bill and seeking to keep the VAT rate at 9%

One might think that as the eldest of three children, Laura Moriarty’s position in the family business was a fait accompli. However, it’s evident that her personality and drive also had a lot to do with the fact that she is now head of operations of the Moriarty Group, not to mention the new chairperson of the LVA.
Moriarty’s father Luke established the business back in the 1980s, one that is unusual in that it’s a mix of retail and hospitality, with three SuperValu stores (Balbriggan, Skerries and Palmerstown) and two hotels – The Bracken Court in Balbriggan and the Courtyard in Leixlip.
She says that her father was and still is her mentor, and that she has learned so much from him and still relies on him to give sage advice whenever needed. “Luke, my Dad, made it look seamless and effortless because he really enjoyed what he did,” she explains. “He had a passion for business and he was so good with people. You could just see how everybody respected him and he was fair and tough when he needed to be. I followed him around like a little puppy when I was young and I just got a grá for it.”
She admits that growing up in a family business allowed her many opportunities and she welcomed those and choose to work across a wide variety of departments in the retail business in her early 20s to gain valuable experience.

“My experience in the business through retail and hospitality from a young age has definitely shaped the type of businesswomen I am today,” she says. “I have learnt from so many types of managers and held so many roles over the years all of which have given me real grounded working experience and the motivation to make sure the Group continues successfully onto the next generation while leaving my own stamp on it with my fellow directors, including my sister Yvonne and brother James,” she says.

Growing into the role

Her childhood was peppered with visits to the shops at the weekends and she says she is repeating history with her children now. “You have to check in on the business if there is an issue or just to throw the head in and to be seen so you can be relatable and maybe solve a problem and maybe more importantly, that the customers see you. Our customers are everything in the local communities that we operate in.”
While her career started with retail in their first shop in Crumlin in the early 80s, the Group branched into hospitality in 2009 with the opening of the Bracken Court Hotel in Balbriggan and the Courtyard in Leixlip in 2005. She holds a Diploma in Hospitality Management from Cornell University in the US as well as a Degree in Business from Technological University Dublin. She says that her Dad told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to quickly learn her way around the hospitality trade.
“Luke opened the Bracken Court Hotel and he turned around and said, you better learn how to run bars and hotels’ so I went off and did a Failte Ireland course and completed a higher diploma in hotel management with Cornell University”.
She took to hospitality immediately and that became her sole focus for a time before becoming operations director for the group.

A people person

Laura Moriarty at the LVA Annual Barbecue 2023, Midsummer Day 21st June 2023.
Iain White Photography.

She was only in her twenties when she took on a huge role in the company, an age when most are travelling or still working out what they want to do with their lives. Did it phase her being so young and shouldering such huge responsibilities, we wondered? “No, to be honest, I always come back to being a people person,” she says. “I like people, I get on with people. I like to listen to people, I like to learn from people and I love customers and the chit chat so it was a natural progression for me. Then confidence came with knowledge and I kept upskilling. Even to this day, could I go in and manage a SuperValu if the manager is on holidays – yes I can. Can I go in and run the full operations of a hotel? Yes I can.”
A major influence on her life and her utmost female mentor and inspiration was her Mum Carol who sadly passed away last September. Her mum worked full time in the business in the early years and then went part time as she reared her family. Moriarty says that her mother allowed her father the freedom to do what he needed to do with the business. “She was certainly some woman for one woman,” she says smiling. “Between both of them we were nurtured and grown into the business.”

Introduction to the LVA

Laura Moriarty and outgoing chair Alison Kealy who Moriaty says has been a great inspiration to her

Moriarty has been a member of the LVA since 2009 and no doubt she was a breadth of fresh air to an organisation that was traditionally run by men in a male dominated sector.
“I was asked to be on the board in 2019 by Ronan Lynch (of the Swan, Aungier Street) and my initial response was, ‘no way’, but I came around and realised it was an honour to be asked and you are going to be surrounded by like-minded business people so the experience will be amazing which it has been. You are a little closer to the topics that affect you. And then when you get to the board, it’s a deeper dive. You’re involved in the wellbeing discussions of the future of the trade. Every opinion matters, every opinion counts,” she says.

The Council consists of 45 members with eight members on the Board. Speaking about her new role, Moriarty said, “It is a great honour to have been elected chair of the LVA. During the course of my term I will do all I can to continue that legacy and to help support the LVAs efforts to protect and promote the amazing hospitality provided by all our members across the capital,” she said.
The new vice chair will be Willie Aherne of The Palace Bar, Fleet Street. The election of Moriarty and Aherne was very much welcomed by LVA CEO, Donall O’Keeffe. “In Laura we have a very successful businesswoman who has forged a strong career path across both hospitality and retail and will bring a wide range of insights to our work supporting the Dublin trade over her term in office,” he said. There is mutual appreciation there with Moriarty saying that O’Keefe is a great asset to the LVA with a high profile in the press and vast experience lobbying on behalf of the organisation.

If you can see it, you can be it

LVA Conference 2022. Alison Kealy, Ivan Yates and Laura Moriarty
Iain White Photography.

Another strong female role model for Moriarty was publican and former chair Deirdre Devitt, the first female chair of the LVA in 2017. “Myself and Deirdre would be close friends. All the chairs have come with a wealth of knowledge and I’ve learned from them all but it was nice to have a woman to learn from too. Deirdre perked up my interest a little bit more and that’s when I really got stuck into it,” she reveals. Alison Kealy, the outgoing chair is also someone that Moriarty admires. “Two great female chairs not only for this organisation but they excel in their own businesses too. Having women in business and more specifically senior or leading roles brings diversity through the industry. Having a mix ofof the LVA brings a variety of talent, views, not to mention structural and cultural differences. It brings impact and courage for others to follow suit. It’s important to show the younger generations, particularly for my daughter Abi and friends’ daughters too, that women can take leading roles,” she says.

On the agenda

The Sale of Alcohol Bill and the VAT rate are the two most pertinent issues for the trade at present. She says that the Sale of Alcohol is a welcome generational change and the LVA likes a lot of the Bill but there are a few areas that they are seeking clarity on. “We are opposed to deregulation and have concerns about the potential operation of Cultural Amenities. We are looking forward to the Bill being introduced in the Dail later this year and to engaging with the Minister and Cabinet Ministers and the Dept of Justice,” she explains.
Maintaining the 9% VAT rate is something else the LVA are focused on and Moriarty says that they really don’t want to see the government adding to inflation challenges that already exist by reintroducing the 23% VAT rate. “The rate right is 9% and that is an internationally competitive rate, and the government should give it some serious thought not to change this later in the year.” she says.
Ireland has long struggled with an “extraordinarily high level of excise that is applied to alcohol in this country”. Moriarty says the LVA is engaging with the Ministers and the Department of Finance yearly to seek a reduction in this rate to try to make it a level playing field with the rest of Europe. “It is the second highest level of excise across the EU/UK. When combined with VAT at 23% on alcohol this mean that around one-third of the price of alcohol served in the pub trade goes to the government on tax. With the country’s finances in such good shape, seeking excise reduction will be an important element of our pre-Budget engagement later this year,” she warns.
Publicans relied heavily on trade organisations during Covid as they looked for direction in unprecedented times. Moriarty feels like the LVA really proved its worth during this time.
“In the past and especially throughout the Pandemic there were massive achievements with the CRSS payments. Without these many businesses would not have survived. The EWSS was a clear focus of intent and provided businesses with the security to keep employment without question. Other things like rates, outdoor dining fees and licenses fees were waivered.” To see such positive initiatives come into play has beenvery satisfying for Moriarty who comes across as someone who likes to get things done efficiently.
As we say goodbye, she has a a busy day ahead being all things to all people, but you can tell that this role, despite adding to her already heavy workload, is something that she will cherish and give her all to.

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