80% of pubs lay off staff as vintners vent fury

More than four out of five publicans outside Dublin have had to either let staff go or reduce their hours in the first three months of this year, a study shows.

An even greater proportion of them — 86% — are unhappy with the Government’s response to support for business as more pubs outside the capital are being forced to close their doors.

The annual conference of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), which begins today, is expected to hear of large-scale dissatisfaction with the Government over lack of support for business. It will also hear warnings of the effect of any widespread ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports events.

More than 350 publicans are in Meath over the next three days for the 40th annual conference of the VFI, which represents 4,200 publicans outside of Dublin, representing 50,000 jobs.

Ahead of the AGM, the VFI released the findings of the most recent independent research undertaken amongst its members by Ignite Market Research.

The results echo similar findings in 2011 and 2012 and detail more pub closures and redundancies. They also show that 86% are dissatisfied with the level of support from Government.

“When one considers that 39% have made reductions in staffing levels in the first three months of 2013 in a desperate effort to stay open, it is clear that members are doing all they can to stay open but feel neglected by the present administration in their fight,” the VFI said in a statement.

“Recent figures released by Revenue outlined that a further 150 pubs closed their doors last year and based on this independent survey and the trends outlined in same, we believe that 2013 will see a further decline.

“However, what the survey also showed is that publicans are still supporting local sports teams and outdoor events to the best of their abilities and the survey gives an indication of the impact that a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports and outdoor events would have on grassroots sport and local events and festivals.

“The overall average spend of VFI members is put at €3.5m which is a significant investment in local projects and activities.”

VFI president Gerry Rafter, a publican based in Kilkenny City, said: “Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a very similar situation to this time 12 months ago with further pub closures and job losses casting a long shadow over our AGM.

“The Government made a lot of noise in their Programme for Government about helping Irish business, but as yet we have seen very little action.

“While we wait for the Government to realise the danger that over 50,000 jobs are in, I think it is time that we started to shout about the positive contribution the Irish pub has made and continues to make to Irish society and in particular rural communities.

“We all know the positive impact in terms of jobs, facilities and offering a social hub and outlet. But what this independent research now also shows is the impact that the Irish publican has on local sports clubs and outdoor events.

“If a ban on alcohol sponsorship is to be brought in, the Irish Government will have to factor in to this the impact that a loss of €3.5m per annum will have on grassroots organisations and the societal impact of same.”

Half empty

*65% of publicans very dissatisfied and 21% somewhat dissatisfied with the level of support from the Government for Irish business.

*39% have made reductions in staffing levels in the first three months of 2013.

*43% have reduced the working hours of existing staff over the same period.

*62% say business has been slow, with turnover down by up to 10% since last year.

*71% support a minimum price for alcohol.


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