Revenue’s pub decline figures “belie reality” claims Cavan publican

Publican Brendan Fay of The Widow’s Bar in Belturbet, County Cavan, believes that the number of pubs closing – or not opening – in rural areas is even more than the figure of 71 cited by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland’s recent industry analysis of the Revenue Commissioners statistics for 2018.


“It’s fast becoming very difficult to be a publican in rural Ireland.” – Brendan Fay of the Widow’s Bar, Belturbet.

“It’s fast becoming very difficult to be a publican in rural Ireland.” – Brendan Fay of the Widow’s Bar, Belturbet.

According to the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, Revenue figures indicate that Cavan had 221 pubs in 2005 where today there are only 187. That’s a fall of 15.4% in pub numbers there which are down again by 1.6% on last year’s figure of 190.

Brendan, who’s also an independent town councillor for Belturbet, believes that the Revenue’s year-on-year figures on the decline of the country’s pub population only tells “half the story”.
According to the DIGI’s analysis the number of pubs in County Cavan alone declined by 15% since 2005 but the real figure for pub closures is likely to be higher, believes Brendan, as licence renewals do not automatically translate to active pubs.
“They’re saying 34 pubs in Cavan have closed since 2005,” he told the Anglo Celt recently, “There’s 10 of them in Belturbet closed alone. So how could that statistic, when you take in the whole of the county, possibly be right?
“When you look at it, Killeshandra has lost pubs, Swanlinbar used to have eight pubs, now it only has two. Cavan has seen pubs closed, five at least at a quick count. The disconnect is that it’s going on the number of licences renewed – that might be down, but the number of pubs closed, that’s much higher still.”

He ascribed the decline in pub population to the rise in home drinking where “domestic violence has gone through the roof. Guards are going out now taking their lives into their hands dealing with situations. In the pubs drinking was monitored. Now it’s gone behind closed doors and the problems are trapped. I feel very strongly about this,” he told the Anglo Celt,
“It’s fast becoming very difficult to be a publican in rural Ireland,” he concluded.


Belturbet pub licences

Of the 13 pubs in Belturbet that applied to renew their Publican’s 7-Day Ordinary Liquor Licence at 31st August 2019 Drinks Industry Ireland found that at least four remain closed despite their licence renewal.

“Of the 19 pubs in Beltutbet 10 years ago just nine remain open,” Brendan Fay told Drinks Industry Ireland, “Four licences have gone and five with a licence remain closed – that’s just Belturbet.

“The drinks industry in Ireland and the government don’t care about anything outside Dublin,” he claimed, “I’m open but I struggle every day.”

On the other hand, these licence renewals could simply be because a current licence holds a value of €40,000 to €60,000 today.

But Brendan believes that the industry’s default of rising prices to match falling business is also to blame.

Four years ago Brendan predicted that by 2020 there would be only around seven pubs in Belturbet.

However others see it differently.

Vintners Federation of Ireland membership numbers throughout the past five years have held firm at around 4,000 and according to a VFI spokesperson, “You’d think any closures, as defined by Brendan, would flow through to our membership.

“When pubs close the licences are being transferred to new pubs as per the numbers in the Revenue list,” he continued, “If they were being transferred to supermarkets or petrol stations they would be reclassified as off-licences which doesn’t appear to be happening in large number as per Revenue figures.

“However we nevertheless recognise that rural publicans are going through a very  difficult time, it’s not that we’re immune to it,” he concluded, “Because since 2005, as reported by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, there have indeed been many closures.”




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