Pubs continue to struggle in rural Ireland

Pub closures continue as revenue figures show 71 rural pubs closed in 2018, meaning there are now 1,535 less pubs in rural Ireland than in 2005.

More than 70 rural pubs closed their doors for good in 2018, according to industry analysis by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI).

The figure is a stark reminder of the pub industry’s continued decline in rural Ireland. In the period between 2005 and 2018, 1,535 or nearly 20pc of rural pubs closed.

DIGI’s analysis of Revenue figures show the rural pub population declined by almost a quarter in Tipperary (-22.5pc or 118 pubs), Mayo (-21pc or 98 pubs) and Cork (-25.6pc or 313 pubs) down from 1221 to 908 in same period 2005-2018. In contrast, Dublin has experienced a net loss of only 10 pubs since 2005, a 1pc decrease.

Among the lowest decline in pub numbers reported were in Wicklow (-1.9pc), Meath (-2.4pc) and Kildare (-9.9pc).




Decline, numbers

Decline %
















The majority of these low-earning businesses are located in rural Ireland and are particularly vulnerable to taxation policy, any sudden tax increases, any decline in inward tourism and economic uncertainty.

The high cost of alcohol excise tax remains a source of significant concern for rural publicans and, indeed, hoteliers, restauranteurs, off-licence owners, and other drinks and hospitality business proprietors. Ireland has the second-highest overall alcohol excise tax in the EU, the highest excise tax on wine, the second highest on beer, and the third highest on spirits.

Ireland’s rate of excise on wine is 25pc higher than any other country in the EU, while our excise rate on spirits is 26pc higher than the UK.

DIGI has called on the Irish government to reduce alcohol excise tax by 15pc over the next two years – 7.5pc in Budget 2020 and then by an additional 7.5pc in Budget 2021.

For pubs in rural or isolated areas, the extremely high cost of alcohol excise tax puts them in a precarious position, limiting their ability to trade more successfully, continue to attract tourism and to invest in their business.

Rural pubs are a significant part of regional Ireland and play a crucial role as community meeting points in rural and isolated parts of the country. According to recent research conducted among 400 publicans by DIGI, more than three-quarters (77pc) saod their business plays an important role in providing a place for local people to come together for family occasions and other events.

Commenting on the issue, Rosemary Garth, chair of DIGI and director of communications and corporate affairs at Irish Distillers, said: “Ireland’s rural pubs have been on a steady decline for years, despite their immense importance and contribution to local communities across the country. Our high alcohol excise tax has played a role in this. DIGI is calling on the government to take action to protect a vulnerable part of the Irish economy from further collapse by reducing alcohol excise tax by 15pc over the next two years.

“Easing the financial burden of excise tax over a two-year period is a clear signal of support and encouragement to these businesses in a time of economic uncertainty. With the now very real prospect of a no-deal Brexit, government action and support have never been more important.”

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland is the umbrella organisation for the wider drinks and hospitality industry in Ireland.  

Is your business in need of financial support. Click here to see what might be available to you


Written by Stephen Larkin

Image: Shutterstock

Published: 26 September, 2019