MORE pubs have closed in Cork county than anywhere else in Ireland since 2005, with latest statistics showing just 153 in pubs left in the Cork South West constituency.
The figures, released this week by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI), show that the Cork South West constituency now has 59 off-licences – more than one third of the number of pubs.
In the past 12 years, across all of Co Cork, a total of 25% (one in four) of pubs have permanently called time, with numbers dwindling from a peak of 1,221 pubs open in 2005, to just 915 in 2017.
Local industry interests say they now have serious concerns for the future of our rural pubs and are calling for immediate action to protect the sector, which provides over 3,000 hospitality jobs in this constituency, and generates an annual tourism spend of €126m.
Martin Maybury of The Parkway Hotel in Dunmanway is vice-chair of the Vintners Federation of Ireland locally, and described the figures as ‘alarming’.
He pointed to the increase in home drinking in an uncontrolled environment, as well as rural isolation.
‘In Dunmanway alone, the number of pubs has gone from 15 to 10 in the last five years. We don’t want to lose any more, and for the rural pub to become a thing of the past – the sector needs help,’ said Mr Maybury. ‘The government needs to take stock and put the necessary supports in place. People are working very hard to keep their doors open but they need help before the rural pub becomes a thing of the past.’
Specifically, he said there was a need for more rural hackney cabs but added that the test to get a hackney licence needs to be changed, citing a miserable 20% pass rate in Cork.
The test is based on multiple choice questions which could typically see a Castletownbere applicant asked about directions in Youghal, he said.
He also called for a reversal in excise hikes on alcohol, which were introduced several years ago.
‘It’s fine for a Dublin pub which is turning over €100,000 a week, but it’s a far bigger issue for a smaller, rural pub,’ he said.
Bantry publican and Independent Cllr Danny Collins agreed that the lack of hackneys in rural areas was adding to the demise of the industry.
‘It’s very hard to get a hackney in rural areas after 10pm. The County Council wrote to Transport Minister Shane Ross a while back to ease up on the testing, but we have heard nothing back,’ he said.
He also hit out at the more stringent drink-driving legislation introduced by Minister Ross, which he called ‘the nail in the coffin of rural pubs.’
Deputy Collins said: ‘The legislation will result in more rural pub closures without a doubt – people who used to come out for a drink or two are now quite simply too afraid to do so. I already know of three pubs in the Bantry area that have closed in the past year, and I can see further decline. The government have to open their eyes and see what’s happening – people are afraid to come out for a drink, and that will result in the loss of jobs.