‘Stark’ figures reveal a fifth of Irish pubs have closed since 2005 – here’s how your county has fared

A fifth of pubs in Ireland have closed permanently in the last 16 years, new research shows.

Traditionally a focal point for communities across the country, pubs in rural regions in particular have long been under economic pressure.

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

In fact, almost one in five of those closures, 349, occurred during the pandemic.

Co Laois experienced the most closures, with nearly 31% of its bars closed in the 16-year period. Co Meath was the least affected, with only a 1.4% decline.

But in 15 counties, the number of pubs fell by 20 to 30 percent. They include Roscommon down 28%, Offaly down 30%, Tipperary down 26% and Co Clare down nearly 25%. Twenty-six per cent of pubs in Co Longford closed in that period, while Kerry saw a decline of just over 15 per cent and it was 25 per cent in May.

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

Irish Distillers director of corporate affairs Kathryn D’Arcy, who was recently appointed chairman of Digi, said the level of decline across the country is “serious”.

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

He added that new government measures should be introduced to support pubs.

Digi wants a reduction in Ireland’s “high excise rate”, which it says would help prop up the sector.

Ireland has the second highest overall excise duty on alcohol in the European Union, behind Finland. Ireland has the highest excise duty on wine, the second highest on beer and the third highest on spirits.

The excise tax on alcohol here has been kept at high levels in an effort to meet public health goals.

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

He noted that since a quarter of adults don’t drink at all, consumption rates among those who do drink are actually much higher.

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

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

Digi’s report on pub closures is based on licensing data from the Revenue Commissioners and was authored by economist Anthony Foley, professor emeritus at Dublin City University.

“Our high alcohol excise tax is a cost and stunt to the growth of these businesses and impacts their day-to-day operations and bottom line,” said Paul Clancy, Digi member and chief executive of the Irish Winemakers Federation.

“We are calling on the government to reduce excise duties to support the industry with significant measures that will be felt immediately and will cut costs overnight for tens of thousands of business owners,” he added.

In the last Budgets, tax relief was introduced for small independent producers of cider and other fermented beverages.

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