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FBD High Court ruling ‘a lifeline’ for pubs – Mayo VFI chief

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THIS MIGHT KEEP PUBS OPEN Achill-based publican, Alan Gielty, Chairman of Mayo VFI.

Oisín McGovern


The Chairman of the Mayo branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) has described a High Court ruling entitling pubs to pandemic-related compensation from FBD Insurance as ‘a lifeline’ for publicans.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Alan Gielty welcomed the news that pubs insured with FBD would be entitled to compensation for loss of earnings during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Achill publican said that it is vital that compensations are paid out speedily to pub owners, who he says are ‘suffering big time’.
“The pubs are closed eleven months on February 15, some pubs didn’t even open, some pubs had only two weeks’ trade. It’s down to the speed they pay these [payments]; it could be too late,” warned Gielty.
“This could be a lifeline to a lot of pubs that are with FBD insurance. It just might be the thing that’ll just help them keep the door open.”

Ruling
On Friday, the High Court ruled in favour of four publicans who had taken cases against FBD Insurance, which had refused to cover policyholders for loss of earnings due to the forced closure of pubs in March 2020.
In a ruling that ran for 214 pages, Mr Justice Denis McDonald found that cover was not lost if closures were prompted by a nationwide outbreak of a disease, providing that there is an outbreak within a 25-mile radius of the premises and that the outbreak is one of the causes of the closure.
The decision, which affects over 1,000 pubs and restaurants in Ireland, follows a similar judgement from the UK’s Supreme Court regarding such matters.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland has since demanded compensation from 12 different insurance companies on behalf of 423 different businesses.
The amount of compensation owed to affected businesses will be determined at a later date.
Gielty, who owns Gietly’s Clew Bay Bar and Restaurant on Achill Island, estimated that about 30 percent of Mayo publicans were insured with FBD.
He added that the Government should act to ensure that insurers do not unfairly hike premiums on publicans, who he said won’t be entitled to compensation for loss of earnings from September 2020 onwards.
“They need to put a regulation in now to say that they cannot absolutely nail the client. They’ll put insurance up, guaranteed.
“Let the Government bring in a policy that anybody that got an insurance claim out cannot double or treble their price, because pubs won’t open,” he added.
Action needed
Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh also welcomed the High Court ruling and called on the Central Bank to ensure that insurers pay out the correct compensation to their clients.
The Sinn Féin TD described the High Court ruling as ‘a victory - not only for the four pubs that took this case against FBD Insurance - but for struggling businesses throughout the State who hold similar policies with FBD and other insurance companies’.
“While the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] in Britain took a court action against eight insurers on behalf of thousands of businesses with different types of policies, the Central Bank has taken no such action. That must end today,” she said.
“We need the Governor of the Central Bank to put in place a Business Interruption Insurance Examination, similar to the Tracker Mortgage Examination.
“It is time for the Central Bank to step up to the plate and defend the interests of policyholders.”
Vintners Federation of Ireland Chief Executive Padraig Cribbin also welcomed the decision, commenting: “This High Court decision is the first good news the 1,100 publicans who are FBD customers have received since the crisis began last March. Publicans took out business interruption cover with FBD in good faith, and the decision by the insurance company to challenge that cover caused huge distress for our members at a time when they were at their most vulnerable.
“It now follows that other insurance companies should review their business interruption claims and begin a process of working with publicans to ensure adequate compensation is provided for the interruption of their businesses,” he concluded.