Many pubs are forced to close two days a week due to a staffing crisis that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Groups representing bar owners told the Oireachtas Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media Committee today that they have suffered a huge loss of chefs, managers and senior bar staff after two years of closures and restrictions.
The Thatch Bar and Restaurant in Lisselton in Co Kerry will close its doors for the last time on Sunday.
A shortage of chefs and rising costs have forced its owners to make a difficult decision.
Owner Joanne Riordan O’Connor said, “The food cost increases, not being able to get the chefs and the stress like… the stress of it all has been so hard, trying to manage everything and keep the things working.” .
Joanne said the cost of groceries has risen 30-40% in the past few months and gas and ESB bills have also skyrocketed, which she says has crippled her business.
“We did a price increase in April and we only got to about 12.5%, we probably should have gotten to about 25% at that point, but we couldn’t because no one would come through our doors,” he explained. .
After five years building their business, the owners of Thatch Bar and Restaurant will be operating for the last time this weekend, an indication of the pressures the industry is facing.
Joanne says they hoped they wouldn’t be forced to close.
“We’re devastated, we put in five hard years in the business. I wish we didn’t have to close, but I think we’re exhausted at this stage,” he said.
Meanwhile, groups representing pub owners told politicians today that the pandemic has caused severe staff shortages.
Donall O’Keefe, Executive Director of the Licensed Vintners Association, said: “Two years of closures and restrictions have had a devastating impact on staff retention in our sector.
“In total, we estimate that around a third of our staff have left the sector.
“Given the shortage of qualified staff that existed before Covid, the loss of chefs, managers and senior bar staff from the sector has made a difficult situation even more challenging.”
Mr. O’Keeffe told members that they were encouraged by the level of business since the sector reopened, and staff availability is now the biggest factor inhibiting a full recovery.
He said the lack of accommodation is most extreme in Dublin and is a barrier to the return of international staff to the pub industry.
It was also a barrier for people moving out of the country to work in Dublin, he said.
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Meanwhile, the Federation of Irish Winemakers said pubs have had to adapt to staff shortages in many ways.
Chairman Paul Moynihan said, “I’ve had owner operators crying out for staff like… They’re shutting down on Mondays and Tuesdays, not because the business isn’t there, just because they can’t get staff.
“There are pubs that have to close for a week to give staff holidays,” he said.
VFI CEO Paul Clancy said the Covid pandemic was a game changer like no other.
He said that many businesses were saved by government interventions and without such support most pubs would have gone bankrupt.
Publishers ‘crying for staff’
Clancy also said that Covid has had a serious impact on members’ job supply and that pub owners are “crying out” for staff.
He said pubs have had to adapt to severe skills shortages in many ways, including training new staff who are young and inexperienced.
He told politicians that this is not sustainable if companies are to remain viable.
The LVA and VFI have called for a single government department or state agency to take responsibility for the hospitality and training sector.
They have also called on the government to review the work permit scheme which they say is not fit for purpose.