A SOUTH-East Clare publican has vowed to drop the price of a pint to just €3, in a desperate bid to halt a dramatic 40% decline in business over the past year.
The proprietor of The Mill Bar in O’Briensbridge, Kathleen Sciascia, actually closed her pub early at 10.30pm on Monday night because there were no customers.
Concerned about the fall off in business over the summer months, Ms Sciacsia, who employs eight full-time and six part-time staff, has warned that if trade doesn’t improve she will be forced to curtail working hours for employees and rates of pay.
She is preparing to put up posters advertising the new discounted price for pints of Guinness, larger and beer, as well as reduced charges for food.
“This can’t go on. This is my business and my livelihood and it is simply a fight for survival. People are not going out anymore in the numbers that were there a few years ago. Rural pubs are being very badly hit.”
She added that publicans are being crippled by the recession. “If a pub closes for 24 hours, the owner still has to pay commercial rates, water rates and VAT. If business doesn’t pick up, I could be gone in 12 months,” she said.
“Ten years ago, the pub was full of tourists and visiting anglers. That isn’t happening today and even the local bed and breakfasts are practically empty. Now that children are back to school, parents will be paying more bills for school, so trade could be poorer between now and Christmas. You would expect an increase during Christmas but once the schools re-open in the New Year, it will probably drop again,” she predicted.
There are two other pubs in the village, Darby’s and Bonnar’s. A spokeswoman for Darby’s Bar told The Clare Champion on Tuesday that trade was steady at the moment and couldn’t say whether or not the price of a pint would be changed in the near future.
There is only one pub in neighbouring Bridgetown following the closure of Cooney’s, while Browne’s Bar in Montpelier also closed its doors.
Efforts by The Clare Champion to contact a spokesperson for Bonnar’s proved unsuccessful.
A number of pubs in Ennis have also reduced the price of drink through promotions or loyalty schemes.
The chairman of the Clare branch of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), Gerry Collins, confirmed that local publicans are reducing their prices to try and stay in business.
Pubs and restaurants must have all their tax affairs in order once licences come up for renewal and Mr Collins predicted that some vintners will not be in a position to pay all their VAT and other charges due to the huge decline in business.
He warned that the proposed reduction in the alcohol limit for drivers, despite a lack of evidence linking alcohol to road deaths, would result in further decline in business for publicans.
Concern about the decline in business and the need for Government action to support struggling licensed vintners was expressed at a local VFI branch meeting on Tuesday night.