Conference to focus on ‘survival of the pub’

The survival and future of the Irish pub will be the overriding issues for publicans at their annual conference today. More than 2,000 pubs have closed in the last decade.

Also flagged will be statistics showing that pubs in traditional tourist areas, which account for 2,500 of the 4,000 Vintners’ Federation (VFI)-member premises, employ an extra 12,000 seasonal staff during the summer.

The important role of the pub in tourism, as has been highlighted in visitor surveys, is also set to be discussed among members. Also, there will be calls for a reduction in excise.

More than 400 publicans will attend the VFI gathering at the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney, Co Kerry. The federation represents over 4,000 publicans outside Dublin, accounting for about 30,000 jobs. Speaking in advance of the conference, VFI president Noreen O’Sullivan said, at present, we had one of the highest levels of excise in the EU and we need to make the country less expensive for tourists.

“With greater tourist numbers, we need to ensure we are competitively priced as well as continuing to offer superb food, service and atmosphere,” she said.

“What we are calling for is a reduction in excise which will make us competitive with European countries like Spain and Portugal that we are competing with in the tourism market. Currently the excise on beer in Ireland is ten times what it is in Spain and Portugal.

“In addition, this reduction will enable us to give a more competitive offering to our regular customers and competitive pricing in this area will also help generate additional jobs,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan also said the pub was a tourist attraction in its own right, with many visitors coming back to visit our pubs.

Publicans had changed what they offered to customers, she added, with a high standard and variety of drinks and craft beers, food and music nights.

Some pubs now depend on the food element of their business for around 60% of their revenue.

Looking ahead to the 2015 tourist season, Ms O’Sullivan said it was expected to be the busiest in a long time. The pub will be at the centre of it and there was real potential for even more seasonal jobs to be created.

The conference is set to pass a motion outlining how the VFI will pursue a more equitable approach from the Government in supporting the self-employed and business owners when their businesses fail.

A motion will outline how these businesses are significantly disadvantaged compared to other sectors when it comes to state supports.

“It is regrettable that when these businesses fail, the level of support from the state for those who have taken the risks, collected the taxes, created the employment and endured the sleepless nights is very limited,’’ said Ms O’Sullivan.

“We need to ensure that government create a level playing field to support those whose businesses have fallen on hard times and for whom access to State supports is virtually non-existent,” she said,

Also discussed will be the publicans’ continuing campaign for the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol and the need for more government support for pubs.

The VFI has for several years called for action to ensure the safe and responsible sale of alcohol.


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