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Reality check ... Dev and the Sacred Heart on the wall of an empty bar

DAN BUCKLEY’S feature article concerning the vintners (August 28) is flawed in certain aspects.

He states that the tax-take on a pint of stout has increased by 26.9% while the non-tax element has increased by 69% during the same period.

He does not mention the near doubling of running costs in the same period – a lot of these costs for publicans being services and charges, in effect a tax.

The average cost of a pint of stout is probably lower in real terms today than in 1985.

It is all too easy to take a snapshot of statistics of the past 10 years – as Dan Buckley has done – and not fully analyse the relationship between the average industrial wage, inflation, interest rates and indeed the euro.

This should be studied as it blurs the reality of the high cost of doing business in this country.

Dan Buckley seems to disregard our right to call foul on these issues. It is misleading to quote prices charged by colleagues of mine in the trade as these are daytime prices and do not reflect the true prices being charged in the evenings and at weekends, which are much, much higher.

It is quite absurd to compare the example of Dublin 4 hotels, which operate in a metropolitan area complete with multiple stadia, concert venues, etc, with Johnny and Mary’s bar in rural Leitrim where they only have a picture of Dev and the Sacred Heart on the wall to keep them company most nights for the lack of custom.

The reality is that a large number of hotels are on the drip pre-NAMA and are making it impossible for viable hotels to compete. Surely this is also a subsidy by the Government.

Dan Buckley’s comparison of the licensed trade with clothing, hotels, delis and supermarkets is unfair and shows how misunderstood the pub has become today.

As a publican I wish to state that my colleagues and I are not in the business of peddling alcohol. If I was, I would open an off-licence and, to be fair, when is the last time one heard live music in an off-licence? Rather I purvey conviviality, entertainment and, when required, consolation and support.

Open any paper on a Monday and see what carnage has been visited on our youth – all at house parties, seldom in a pub.

The music, literature, debate and hospitality that flows from pubs is what sets this island apart. It is a pillar of our tourism industry. Small businesses are the bedrock of any society and the race to the bottom in price will only result in fewer pubs, more household violence, more rural suicide and a disconnected society.

It is clearly time to stop bashing publicans and have a rational debate on our relationship with alcohol – so Mr Buckley come away for a quart with me. This deserves more discussion and, after all, the only thing in this country that is black and white is the pint of stout

Benny McCabe


Coburg Street



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