'FINAL NAIL IN COFFIN' Castlebar publican, Pat Moran.
Businesses at risk of closure over commerical rates hike
A CASTLEBAR publican has warned that an increase in commercial rates will be ‘the final nail in the coffin’ for some hospitality businesses.
Speaking exclusively to The Mayo News, Pat Moran of Bucko’s Bar in Castlebar, said his business could close after his rates bill was hiked by €3,500.
Other business owners who spoke to this newspaper expressed concern about the rates system, with one describing it as ‘a noose around the neck’ of many small businesses.
While many businesses have seen their commercial rates decrease or stagnate, other businesses have received large increases in their bills.
Over 4,600 businesses currently pay commercial rates to Mayo County Council. The money raised is used to pay for various services including road maintenance, leisure facilities and public lighting.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous at the moment,” Mr Moran said.
“Restaurants seems to bear the brunt of the increases and yet publicans and restaurants and hospitality have been the hardest hit in the pandemic.”
Because of the soaring cost of energy, Mr Moran took the decision to stop serving food in July of this year.
He has also had to lay off eight staff and is currently working seven days a week to keep his pub operational.
“I have to say the council were very decent to deal with, but the valuations were done in Dublin. The people in Dublin don’t have a clue as regards to what it’s like in the west of Ireland at the moment,” Mr Moran said.
“Our revenue dropped largely, people don’t go to pubs as much as they did. Instead of trying to help us, what they’re doing is crucifying us,” he added.
Mr Moran, who took over Bucko’s Bar in 2019, said he will have to close his business if his rates appeal is unsuccessful.
“The Government are an absolute joke. Their head is in the sand. We’re going through hell at the moment. Having spoken to a lot of hospitality, they can’t afford the increase in the rates whatsoever. It’s he final nail in the coffin to be honest with you.”
OTHER businesspeople who spoke to this newspaper said they were not getting value for the money they pay in commercial rates, which makes up roughly a quarter of Mayo County Council’s revenue.
With few exceptions, rates are currently calculated based on the rental value of a premises rather than a business’s profit.
Aghamore businessman Donal Byrne described the way commercial rates are calculated as ‘absolutely mental’.
“My whole thing is that rates, from start to finish, should be on turnover and profit margin,” said Byrne, who operates Eileen’s Bar in Aghamore and Big Red Barn in Swinford.
Mr Byrne also called for larger companies to pay a far greater share of commercial rates.
“Rural Ireland is decimated, decimated. Pubs, shops and post offices closing. Bringing in Tescos, and Lidl and Aldi, who are closing the smaller businesses, they should be picking up the rest of the rates,” he stated.
BELMULLET-based businesswoman Mari Corduff said smaller businesses should be given a discount in their first few years of trading.
Ms Corduff, who opened her bakery and coffee shop in December 2021, said she was ‘really fearful’ about the various costs and charges her business would incur in the coming months.
“Nobody wants to [raise prices], but there’s only so much price increases you can absorb without having to pass it on to the customer,” she told The Mayo News.
A number of elected representatives have also called for reform of the way rates are levied on small businesses.
Cllr Michael Loftus, who has run a supermarket in Crossmolina for over four decades, said some businesses were being ‘absolutely crucified’ by hikes in rates and electricity.
The Fianna Fáil councillor said he would oppose any increase to Annual Rate on Valuation, which the council has currently set at €78.42.
“Mayo County Council are going to lose out on their rates if businesses close, so there has to be a happy balance got between the costs to businesses and the money that the council [collect],” he told The Mayo News.
“I feel the government have to come in and give some sort of funding to the councils like they did during the Covid times.”
Fine Gael councillors Jarlath Munnelly and Peter Flynn both said that rate-paying businesses were getting poor value for money.
“People’s rates have gone up 30 percent, approximately, since 2015. Now you have revaluations kicking in which is further impacting on a number of businesses, particularly in the hospitality side of things,” Cllr Flynn said.
“They are right to be questioning where this money is going. The basic services and the basic supports that they expect as business people is sadly lacking right now in Mayo County Council,” said Cllr Munnelly, who called for more ‘flexibility’ in how rates are levied on individual businesses.