30,000 jobs have been lost in the pub trade in the last five years alone at an estimated current annual cost to the exchequer of €630m.
Speaking at a meeting, VFI President Gerry Mellett, himself a rural publican based in Carlow said, “The pub industry is on its knees and more than one pub is closing every day. The industry is haemorrhaging jobs and last year over 5,000 people went out of work from our industry. That is the equivalent of five ‘Avivas’ and next year is looking even bleaker. We have experienced our worst October in over two decades after years of decline and we need urgent action to save jobs”.
The publicans, all members of the VFI, gathered outside Dáil Éireann to highlight the major concerns and challenges facing thousands of pubs, predominantly family-run businesses, throughout Ireland.
Significant closures and job losses are inevitable, unless critical measures are implemented by Government to support the struggling pub industry, feels the VFI.
The demands laid out at the meeting by the VFI members are:-
Rates: The Valuation Bill coming before the Dáil needs to have a clause allowing an appeal on rates based on a change in economic circumstances of the business
Rural Transport: Publicans should be exempt from VAT and VRT on all new seven- and nine-seat vehicles to reflect the reality that publicans are acting as de facto taxi drivers in rural Ireland
VAT Exemption for those with low turnover: An increase in the current VAT exemption threshold from a turnover figure of €75,000 to €100,000
Reduction in Excise: The budget needs to recognise that we currently have the third-highest level of excise in Europe and anything other than a reasonable reduction will have a negative impact on jobs
Overhaul of Regulatory Burden: Government needs to have a radical overhaul of the regulatory burden imposed on small and medium-sized businesses
“The VFI firmly believes that if these issues are addressed and appropriate policies are put in place, thousands of jobs could be saved with consequent savings for the exchequer,” said Gerry Mellett in explaining the positive effects these measures could have on what is a vital industry for the national economy, “The current administration is not to blame for years of neglect, poor legislation and high costs facing small businesses, but the future of our industry is in their hands.
“The majority of our publicans cannot sustain current sales trends allied to the high cost base of doing business. It is within the government’s power to reduce the cost of doing business in Ireland to help publicans and other small businesses keep their doors open and save jobs. Pubs are cutting costs and trying to stay afloat but we need assistance.”
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben outlined in more detail the demands of the publicans.
“While we welcome the Taoiseach’s commitment to address the issue of cheap alcohol in supermarkets by way of minimum pricing, there are other issues that need to be tackled.
“Rates need to be addressed. Initially we need to have a change to allow for rates to be appealed based on one’s ability to pay. There needs to be an overall reduction in the cost of Local Government so that the rates burden can be reduced by 15 per cent per annum over the next three to four years.
“Increasing the current VAT exemption threshold from €75,000 to €100,000 would bring hundreds of small pubs into this bracket and would help enormously.
“Recent initiatives to lessen the excise burden should be continued to help boost the tourist trade and employment in labour intensive on sector.
“To support publicans in making even marginal savings, we are also calling for publicans who use seven- and nine-seater vehicles to transport patrons to and from their premises to be able to offset the VAT/VRT as a business expense. This would fairly reflect the reality that publicans are already acting as taxi drivers in rural Ireland at a significant cost to themselves.”
Action is required urgently or more jobs will be lost in an industry already on its knees, he added.