Optimistic outlook or just naïve?

We move through March in a spirit of cautious optimism.

Renewed consumer confidence seems to have led to a slight burgeoning of till takings this Christmas and pundits predict a better year ahead than that which has gone before.

Interest in the licensed trade itself has picked up too from those wanting to purchase good pubs and make them better (as distinct from those wanting to buy cheap properties and sell them on when the market improves).

Depending on which auctioneer you’re inclined towards, between 38 and 46 licensed premises changed hands in Dublin last year netting €44 million or €53 million depending on which report takes your fancy.

But what is clear is that there’s a refreshingly genuine interest in the licensed trade property market once again from bona fide pub operators – provided that all the ‘i’s are dotted and ‘t’s crossed when it comes down to trading potential and location.

Sales such as they were at the beginning of 2014 were mostly of the ‘distressed’ variety, we learn. But towards the end of the year, we were beginning to witness premises being sold primarily to owner-occupiers focused on the trading asset itself rather than its potential alternative use value as was the case a number of years ago.

As CBRE states elsewhere in our February issue, the profile of Dublin publicans is changing rapidly “with pub operators now increasingly younger, more highly-educated and tech-savvy than their predecessors”.

And that’s not confined to Dublin. New innovatory operators are springing up all over the country and Morrissey’s expects the improved market sentiment, which played such a valuable role in the emergence of a recovery in 2014, to continue throughout 2015 “which should further promote market confidence and in turn regenerate activity”.

We can only pray that this tender shoot of confidence and business boost is not crushed by insensitive playing to the gallery on the part of the legislators with the prospect of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill being made law.

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