Pub closures - Decline must be tackled

The Irish pub may be a growing phenomenon around the world, but they are clearly declining in this country.

They were closing at a rate of almost one a day from 2007 to 2009. A total of 833 did not renew their drinks licence during that period.

This is generating fears of a social and cultural void developing in rural areas, which have been hardest hit by the closures of public houses. Of course, these closures are also hitting the broader economy.

For many years one Finance Minister after another talked about “the old reliables” in raising taxes to generate revenue. The “old reliables” were beer, spirits and tobacco. There was also revenue coming in from those employed in the licensed trade.

In November of last year, a survey of 748 licensed premises across the country found that 31% of the bars outside Dublin did not expect that they would continue in business after the current proprietors retire. This does not mean that people will drink less alcohol, but, rather, that they are more likely to drink at home, which could have serious social consequences.

Fine Gael TD, John O’Mahony, has called for road tax relief on buses run by rural pubs. These could prove a distinct boost to rural communities.

Such imaginative measures might actually enhance the government’s tax take, because people in pubs that would otherwise close will be paying VAT, and the employees will be paying tax, rather than drawing unemployment assistance. The workers would also be remaining in those communities.

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