Last year, there were 7,140 pubs nationwide – a decline of 1,477 pubs or 17.1% from the 8,617 figure in 2005. The figures are based on an analysis of the liquor licence figures published by the Revenue Commissioners which tracks the number of premises with publican’s licences (7-Day licences that allow the sale of beer, wine and spirits to be consumed on-site).
Unsurprisingly, rural counties saw the most significant drop in pubs numbers. In 2005, there were 7,831 pubs in Ireland outside Dublin. By 2017, that number had dropped by 18.7% to 6,367.
Cork, which has the largest number of pubs in the country, also saw the most significant decline in the country. In 2005 Cork had 1,221 pubs but by last year this had declined by one quarter to just 915.
Wexford, Meath and Dublin saw the smallest decline in pub licences with Wexford’s pub population dropping from 158 to 157 while Meath was down three pubs from 210 to 207.
In 2017, Dublin City & County had 773 pubs registered, down only 1.7% from 2005’s 786 figure, but the number of Dublin pubs last year was still 4.3% higher than in 2012 – the lowest year for the number of pubs in Dublin.
Off-licences on the up
In contrast to publican’s licences, off-licences have seen an increase of 11.8% since 2005. 3,331 premises registered an off-licence in 2017 compared to 2,966 in 2005. Licences for wine-only bars and restaurants were also up 3.1% since 2005.
In total, there were 866 fewer liquor licences registered in Ireland in 2017 than in 2005 – a decrease of 5.6%.
Describing the 17% drop in the number of pubs since 2006 as “worrying”, Vintners Federation of Ireland Chief Executive and DIGI member Padraig Cribben said, “These pubs are small businesses, mainly in rural Ireland, that provide significant employment and continue to create jobs in local communities.
“In Mayo alone, hospitality and drinks businesses enable 4,095 jobs while in Donegal, there are 368 pubs and 7,445 jobs supported by the industry. This demonstrates the scale of employment that this sector creates rurally.”
The sharp decline in the number of pubs is further evidence of the need to monitor the industry and ensure the necessary supports are in place to reverse this trend, he stated.
“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 punitive alcohol excise tax – the second highest in the EU – slows the growth of these businesses and impacts their day-to-day operations and bottom line.
“DIGI is calling on the Government to reduce Ireland’s high rate of excise tax. A reduction in alcohol excise tax will encourage the growth of our drinks and hospitality sector, return money to Irish consumers and make Ireland more competitive internationally.”