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Government grant for closed pubs ‘an insult’ - Gielty


'GIVE PUBLICANS A CHANCE'  Achill-based publican, Alan Gielty, Chairman of Mayo VFI.

Óisin McGovern

‘An insult’ and a ‘slap in the face’ is how the head of the Mayo Vintners Association has described the grants being made available to pubs that are still closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) Alan Gielty said that the support package announced by the government last week wasn’t enough to cover the debt that most alcohol-only pubs had accumulated from being closed.
He said: “The payments they’re getting don’t cover the running costs. You still have to heat the place, you still have to have electricity. You still have insurance on your building.”
He added: “A lot of the publicans did use the time during lockdown to do up the pub. Some might’ve put in a few thousand, €5,000, €10,000 and they’re not allowed to reopen. That €10,000 could be the difference between staying open or not. Some pubs won’t open again because people are getting used to not going to the pub, and why should they bother? It’s an awful predicament.”
Yesterday (Monday) the Drinks Industry Group stated that the government’s €16 million stimulus package ‘fails to grasp the magnitude of the situation that publicans are facing’.
It added that: “Since the lockdown, almost half of publicans have taken on debt of €16,000, one in five as much as €30,000, much of it to invest in protective equipment and refurbishments in preparation for reopening. The package therefore barely scratches the surface of what is required.”
The details of the package are yet to be revealed but the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said they would top-up the restart grant for affected pubs by 40 per cent, waive license fees and court fees for pubs that remain closed.
Gielty said that accessing the maximum available grant of €4,000 would be difficult for many pubs and described the waiving of license fees as ‘not even a Pandemic [Unemployment] Payment’.

VAT payments
He also suggested that closed pubs should receive six months of their 2019 VAT payments to help cover their costs.
“It won’t cover their costs but it will help them,” said the owner of Gielty’s Clew Bay Bar and Restaurant on Achill Island.
“Look at how much they’re losing in excise duty. We were looking for a VAT reduction and they gave us 2 per cent. If a pub is closed you’re getting 21 per cent of nothing, if a pub is open you’re getting 9 per cent of something. It’s not a support package. I’d call it an insult,” he said.
A recent survey of 1,539 publicans by the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland revealed that two thirds of pubs (65 per cent) who are not allowed to open by order of the Government believe they will go out of business by January 2021, based on current conditions.
Sixty-three per cent of the publicans whose pubs are still closed reported suffering from extreme stress while six out of ten are considering closing their business for good.
Gielty re-iterated that all pubs should be given the chance to reopen under public health guidelines, saying that publicans were under ‘severe pressure financially and mentally’.
He said: “We understand there’s a pandemic going on but they need to be given the chance. You can’t throw it all on the publican. The customers have to be responsible too.
“I’m getting a lot of phone calls from all over the county and they’re just sick with the way they’re being treated,” he added.
“The pub is the most regulated business in the country. They’re told when they can open and close, the guards and Customs and Revenue can come in at any time. If you’re doing food you’re inspected by the fire officer.”
He continued: “Nobody is forcing you to go to the pub. Give the publicans a chance. Let them open from 5pm to 10pm at night or something and monitor them. If they’re not playing ball then close them. They’re tarring everyone with the same brush.
“The video in Temple Bar closed all the pubs in the country. Do you think a pub out in Erris and Achill is the same as a pub in Castlebar? Or is a pub in Castlebar the same as a pub in Galway or Dublin. Not a chance.”