‘Stark’ figures show fifth pub has closed since 2005

A fifth pub in Ireland has closed permanently in the past 16 years, new research shows.

Originally a focal point for communities across the country, pubs have long been under economic pressure, especially in rural areas.

A report released yesterday by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (Digi) shows that 1,829 pubs closed between 2005 and 2021. That period includes the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger era and the subsequent financial crash, as well as the COVID crisis.

In fact, about one in five of those closures, 349, happened during the pandemic.

Co Laois experienced the most closures, with nearly 31pc of its bars closed over a 16-year period. Co Meath was the least affected, falling by only 1.4 per cent.

But the number of pubs has declined from 20 percent to 30 percent in 15 counties. These include Roscommon, down 28 percent, Offali at 30 percent, Tipperary at 26 percent, and Co Claire, down about 25 percent. Twenty-six percent of pubs in Co Longford closed in that period, while Kerry’s suffered a drop of just over 15 percent and Mayo had 25 percent.

In Dublin, just over 4 percent of pubs closed in those 16 years.

Irish Distillers Corporate Affairs Director Catherine D’Arcy, who was recently appointed Digi’s chairman, said the level of decline across the country is “stark”.

“The Irish Pub has been in steady decline over the years, and these stark figures once again highlight the need to secure the sustainable future of our pubs,” said Ms D’Arcy.

He said new government measures needed to be introduced to support pubs.

Digi wants a reduction in Ireland’s “high excise duty rate”, which it says will help ease the sector.

Ireland has the second highest excise tax on alcohol in the European Union, after Finland. Ireland has the highest excise taxes on wine, the second highest on beer and the third highest on spirits.

Excise duty on alcohol has been kept at a high level in an effort to meet public health objectives.

A report published last year by the state’s agency Health Research Board found that in 2019, the average person aged 15 and older in Ireland drank 10.8 liters of pure alcohol a year. This is equivalent to 40 bottles of vodka, 113 bottles of wine or 436 pints of beer.

It has been noted that since a quarter of adults do not drink at all, consumption rates among drinkers are actually very high.

It added that Ireland ranks ninth among 38 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for alcohol consumption and eighth in the world for monthly binge drinking.

The Board of Health Research also noted that there were 1,094 alcohol-related deaths in Ireland in 2017. More than 70 percent of those who died of alcohol-related causes were under the age of 65.

The Digi report on pub closures is based on license data from revenue commissioners, and was authored by Anthony Foley, economist emeritus, professor emeritus at Dublin City University.

“Our high alcohol excise duty is a cost and slows down the growth of these businesses and affects their day-to-day operations and bottom line,” said Paul Clancy, Digi member and chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland .

“We are calling on the government to reduce the excise tax to support the industry, which will be realized immediately and will bring down costs overnight for thousands of business owners,” he said.

In the last budget, excise duty relief was introduced for independent small producers of cider and other fermented beverages.