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Ennis Chamber of Commerce President and publican Darragh McAllister.

High Court ruling offers “glimmer of hope” to publicans says Clare VFI chair

THE chair of Clare VFI has said a landmark High Court ruling offers a “glimmer of hope” to struggling publicans in the county whose doors have remained shut for almost a year because of Covid-19. The High Court has ruled that four pub owners are entitled to be compensated by FBD Insurance for the disruption their businesses suffered due to the pandemic. The outcome of the case affects claims made by more than 1,000 pubs and restaurants across the country.
Clare VFI chair Darragh McAllister has urged publicans in the county to examine their own insurance policies and seek the advice of an independent assessor.
The chairman described news of the ruling as “fantastic”, adding that the VFI “knew all along that FBD did owe those companies compensation”.
“The question now is, number one, what kind of quantum will be involved, and also what other companies will have to pay out because it all comes down to the policy. There are other potential insurance companies out there that have a similar or identical policy as the one concerned in the case.”
He continued, “Our message to all our members is to get out your policy and have a look at it yourself, and get an independent assessor and see if it’s worth making a claim. There may not be a domino effect, because insurance companies are still insurance companies and many will still fight it, but there should be some bit of a crack in the wall here. It’s important that if you have already made a claim that you get on to your insurance company and if you haven’t made a claim, definitely consider it. You lose nothing by making the claim, you certainly lose nothing by bringing it to the hands of an independent assessor. Most independent assessors will look at your policy for nothing anyway and will tell you straight off the bat whether you have no hope, but you certainly won’t have any hope of a case if you don’t try.”
He said that the pub business is “leaching money at the moment and if they are entitled to this compensation after many years of contributing to the largesse of insurance companies, it is right and proper.”
While he does not have figures for the number of Clare publicans with FBD, he said that the ruling has brought a sense of relief as pubs remain closed. “It’s a bit of hope for a lot of people, whether or not it comes through for everyone we will have to wait and see. A glimmer of light in the current situation is every welcome because right now it would appear we will definitely make 12 months closed if not more.”
He added that the ongoing closure is continuing to have a negative effect, and he criticised the level of support from government for the sector. “There are plenty of cases out there of people who had just invested in a pub and they are closed for the year. There are people whose leases have run out during the course of the lock-down and they are left in limbo. There are people who struggle to pay rent and are getting no succour whatsoever from the landlord, and the government has not done anything about that or stepped up to try and help that. The Covid Restriction Support Scheme (CRSS) payment is very welcome help, but it certainly doesn’t cut the mustard for most people.”

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