'EYE WATERING' Ballinrobe publican Ciarán Ferriter with his energy bills.
There’s no way in the wide world businesses like ours can sustain this, says Ballinrobe publican
As businesses and households in Mayo continue to be crippled by surging energy costs, one Mayo publican has said the current situation is ‘far more serious’ than what businesses faced during Covid.
Ciarán Ferriter, who owns The Bowers gastropub in Ballinrobe, called on the Government to act with haste.
“I’d compare Covid to Croagh Patrick and this to Everest. The figures for energy costs are eye-watering.
"You’d nearly want to take Valium now before you open your energy bill,” he says frankly.
“If the Government don’t support now, come Christmas time there will be no restaurant open, there will be no bar open,” he says.
“There’s no way in the wide world businesses like ours can sustain this. There’s collateral damage coming down the line. There’s no way we can stay going the way we are; it’s just not sustainable,” he adds.
“The Government are going to have a real problem on their hands if they don’t sit up and act, because they’re going to have people on the dole, they’re going to lose VAT, they are going to lose all those incomes that they generate from the likes of ourselves.
“There’s a huge well going to dry up,” he added.
The oil and gas shortage, inflamed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has sent energy bills skyrocketing in homes and businesses across Europe.
Ferriter explained how it has impacted on his costs.
Excluding wages, it will soon cost him in the region of €12,000 a month just to keep the lights switched on and the food cooking in The Bowers.
“There’s no escaping this thing. Everyone is in the same boat,” he says. “I can guarantee you, if people don’t sit up and take notice, they’ll fall like little pawns on a chessboard. And the king and the queen are the energy companies, and they are going to be the only ones left on the board,” said Ferriter.
He was speaking to The Mayo News for our news analysis (see pages 22-23).
Noel Marley, owner of Pilgrim’s Rest Nursing Home in Barley Hill outside Westport and David Tyrell, Director of the Western Strands Hotel in Belmullet, also spoke about the challenges they are facing.
Marley said his energy bill has doubled since the start of the year.
“It is a grave issue,” he said. “We burn probably ten times [the amount of electricity] than that of a family home. Our energy costs have doubled certainly.
“It is the fuel costs which make it very difficult. It is a worry. There is no point saying I am not worrying about it, because I am,” he added.
In Belmullet, David Tyrell has been fortunate to have fixed-rates for electricity and gas but can observe how the cost of living crisis is impacting on people.
“At the moment, the main issue we’re seeing is the squeeze people are experiencing or expect to experience.
“We’re all worried about those big increases, and that’s understandable, but the caution is already having a serious impact on business and cash flow. We see it clearly every day,” he added.
Fears of closures
Meanwhile Darren Madden, Chairman of the Mayo Branch of The Irish Hotels Federation has described soaring energy bills as ‘frightening’.
The proprietor of The Clew Bay Hotel in Westport has seen his electricity bill triple and his gas bill increase nearly seven-fold since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine at the end of February.
He told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) that energy bills may force some hotels to close for the winter.
Mr Madden said this would have a ‘detrimental affect’ on the local Westport economy.
“If it effects hotels and hotels are going to maybe see fit to close during the winter period rather than open, it’s going to have a detrimental effect on bringing people into town,” he said.
“The shops and restaurants in Westport town do depend on hotels bringing people in. The bigger issue is trying to support jobs at a time of year when things are tough anyway.
“The big thing about this particular issue is I don’t think they [high fuel costs] are going to go away any time soon,” he added.
“I think with Covid we thought it was going to dissipate sooner rather than later. I think that’s the issue with the whole energy thing.
“We were getting support during Covid, at the moment we’re not. Nobody wants to be scaremongering about business closures, but there are small businesses that will become unsustainable purely because of energy costs. We saw some of the bills that are going out there. They are frightening.”