A TOTAL of 384 pubs have closed in Cork since 2005, marking a 28.5% decline in the trade, and an industry spokesperson has warned that, unless the Government reduces excise duty, many more hostelries are in danger of permanently shutting their doors.
A new report from the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (Digi) shows a 21.2% decline nationally in the number of pubs doing business nationally in the 16 years to 2021.
The Irish Pub: Stopping the Decline report finds 1,829 pubs closed across the country in 2005-21.
In Cork city and county, 384 pubs have closed in that time, falling from 1,221 to 873, a decline of 28.5%.
Michael O’Donovan, owner of the Castle Inn and Cork city and county chairman of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), urged the Government to reduce excise duty by 7.5% in the next budget.
“We are facing into a perfect storm with rising energy costs and customers not having as much disposable income, so we are asking the Government to help us by reducing excise duty in the upcoming budget by 7.5%,” Mr O’Donovan said.
“Ireland has the second-highest rate of excise duty in the EU, and the excise reduction we are appealing to the Government for would give publicans a bit of extra cash to weather the storm that’s coming this winter with energy costs, and it would help protect pubs, and give them a fighting chance to help them get through this crisis.”
Mr O’Donovan said that without a reduction in excise duty, many more pubs would be forced to permanently shut their doors. “There is a real fear that if the Government doesn’t intervene, we will be looking at more names joining the list of closed pubs, and a further decrease in the stock of pubs around the country, and especially here in Cork,” he said.
The Digi report finds that all 26 counties experienced declines in pub numbers through the 16-year period covered, with the largest decrease seen in Laois, which now has 30.6% fewer pubs than in 2005.
The lowest decrease was in Meath, which saw a decline of 1.4%, followed by Dublin, which reported a decrease of 4.3%.
Some 349 pubs closed in Ireland since the Covid-19 pandemic began, marking a national decline of 4.9%
In Cork City and county, 37 closed in that period, amounting to a 4.1% decline.
Digi member and VFI chief executive Paul Clancy described the report as ‘”alarming”.
“The closures of 1,829 pubs represent businesses that provide jobs, a hub in the local community for socialising and community integration, and a cultural centre which has long been documented as among the main attractions for tourists visiting Ireland,” Mr Clancy said.
“The pace of decline increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw the drinks and hospitality industry suffer the worst of all, with one of the longest lockdowns recorded globally.”
Mr Clancy said given the sharp decline in pubs, there was an urgent need to monitor the industry carefully and ensure all necessary supports are in place to contribute to stopping this trend. “Our high alcohol excise tax is a cost, and slows the growth of these businesses and impacts their day-to-day operations and bottom line.
“We are calling on the Government to reduce excise tax to support the industry with meaningful measures that will be felt immediately and reduce costs overnight for tens of thousands of business owners.”