Government supports will not see Cork pubs 'survive the winter'

Government supports will not see Cork pubs 'survive the winter'

A CORK publican has said a €16m package approved by the Government to assist wet pubs as they enter their sixth month of closure will not help them “survive the winter”.

Michael O’Donovan, Cork City chairperson of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, said the organisation welcomes the licence-fee waiver for the year for clubs, pubs, and hotels, but a 40% top-up of the restart grant is “wholly inadequate” for a sector that has been closed for nearly five and a half months.

Given the Tánaiste’s comments yesterday evening, that he is not sure if wet pubs will open in 2020, Mr O’Donovan said these supports are wholly inadequate.

“It won’t make us survive the winter with the ongoing costs that we have — 40% of the restart grant will not cover insurance premium alone, not to mind the utility bills or ongoing security requirements. It wouldn’t meet the bills that are there at the moment,” he said.

Michael O'Donovan of the Castle Inn, 99 South Main Street Cork CityPicture: Eddie O'Hare
Michael O'Donovan of the Castle Inn, 99 South Main Street Cork CityPicture: Eddie O'Hare

Mr O’Donovan, who owns The Castle Inn pub, said these are the only supports that have been made available to pubs prohibited from opening.

In relation to bars that are open, Mr O’Donovan said that he would have hoped it would have been possible for publicans to avail of the employment wage subsidy scheme (EWSS) without the stipulation of a tax clearance cert.

“The EWSS is another major contention because they [pubs] are operating at a reduced capacity and they must clear their bills from January and February which a lot of them will struggle with.

“It is another major concern that hasn’t been dealt with yet.

“The bill from January and February must be cleared to obtain your tax clearance cert, and that is a particular problem for bars that have cash flow problems at the moment.

“We were hoping that people could access the EWSS on a continuous basis, but that is not the case.”

Mr O’Donovan said the VFI would discuss the supports in more detail today and release a statement following this meeting.

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI), the umbrella organisation that represents the country’s drinks and hospitality industry, said the hospitality and drinks businesses employ over 19,000 people in Cork, generating €784m in revenue for the local tourism economy, according to a 2017 report by DCU Economist Anthony Foley.

Chair of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland and Director of communications at Irish Distillers, Rosemary Garth, warned that any further lockdown will be the difference in pubs reopening or not in the long term.

“Irish pubs are generally small businesses with modest revenues. 90% of pubs are located outside of Dublin. Irish pubs have endured the longest lockdown in the EU, losing half a year of business.

“The Government has so far failed to provide them with any kind of reassurance, certainty, or long-term support.”

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