NEARLY one in ten Mayo pubs have been forced to close since the start of the recession, new figures reveal.
Documents released to The Mayo News by the Revenue Commissioners’ Office show a year on year decline on publicans renewing their pub licences as more public houses close down in rural areas of the county.
Off-licence renewals have dropped 26 per cent in Mayo while 41 per cent of wholesale traders decided not to renew their licence since 2005.
In 2007, 435 publican licences were renewed in District Courts across Mayo; however the figure has dropped to a new low of 386 as of last year.
Junior Minister for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring claims that recent drink driving legislation has had a detrimental effect on the rural pub sector.
“There is no doubt that it is a rural problem and that is shown in the figures. Recent drink driving regulations probably haven’t helped the situation either. It is plain to see that business in that industry is very difficult at the moment.
“It is an inherent part of our culture and it is extremely sad to see the decline. Countries all over the world try to copy our pub culture and they (pubs) bring in tourists every year. It is a major tourism attraction,” Deputy Ring said.
Padraig Cribben, President of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, said he fears that up to 500 pubs may close nationwide next year with a loss of 4,000 jobs.
“There has been a noticeable decline in trade over the last number of years. A number of factors are at play such as changing lifestyles, increased costs such as commercial rates, water rates and of course the drink driving legislation. In addition, pubs are being undermined by the supermarket practice of using alcohol as a loss leader.
“In the last 12 months, 7,000 jobs were lost in the trade sector alone and at least 500 pubs are at risk of closing over the next 12 months, with the subsequent loss of a further 4,000 jobs. The Government needs to sit up and take stock of what is happening here. We are a major asset to this economy and all we are looking for is a level playing field,” Mr Cribben added.
The figures also show a 38 per cent decline in wine licences for restaurants and shops since a peak in 2007 - double the national average.
Adrian Cummins, CEO at the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said he believes the trend in restaurant closures would continue and the decline in alcohol licences correlated directly with these closures.