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'They may as well build bypasses and close the towns' - 'growing anger' as rural publicans protest

THERE is “growing anger” among rural publicans and that is teetering on a protest movement – as ‘wet’ pubs mark almost half-a-year of closure.

small protest took place in Dublin city centre on Thursday by Monaghan Publicans For Common Sense and Independent.ie understands discussions have been taking place across rural Ireland.

Larger protests are now being discussed to highlight just how many publicans are struggling financially after the long closures.

Charlie Chawke, one of Ireland’s best-known publicans, has signalled publicans’ displeasure is on the rise.

“The people from Monaghan, that’s just the beginning of it – there will be more – the Government needs to knock this on the head, let them open,” Mr Chawke told Independent.ie.

Mr Chawke said the Government now must open up the wet pubs, to allow people to start rebuilding their lives.

“Let the decent publicans prove to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar they can open and abide by the regulations,” Mr Chawke said.

“If the Government doesn’t open all pubs, including those in rural Ireland, where people rely on their local pubs as a social outlet, it might as well build bypasses and close the towns.”

Noel McNally, owner of McNally’s bar in Carrickmacross, is a member of the Monaghan protest group and he’s aware of the growing anger in rural Ireland at the wet pub closures.

Rural wet pubs, in particular, are suffering, after almost six months of closure, Mr McNally said, and bills still have to be met.

However, even some well-established Dublin city bars are finding operating in the pandemic a challenge.

With many people working from home and a Government instruction for the public to avoid public transport, where necessary, the city is suffering a lack of footfall.

Mr Chawke added: “A few of my pubs are doing okay and a few not. Hopefully the ones doing okay will balance the others but if it gets worse then we will have to close them (the less well performing bars) down.

“Suburban pubs are doing better. Before Covid, it was the opposite – the city pubs were busier. But this is a result of a loss of tourism, people working from home and people being asked not to use public transport. But it has a lot to do with Covid-19.”

Mr McNally said he took a phone call from a young publican in recent days and was greeted by a man “crying, unable to pay his bills – worried about his future, his family’s future”.

The publican said at least three local pubs have closed in rural Monaghan and many are now in debt and worried about the mortgage moratorium coming to an end.

For Mr McNally and other wet pub publicans the issue is clear: Serving a burger or a pizza, doesn’t make a difference.

“A socially distanced pint is exactly the same thing. The Government needs to let us open, this is people’s livelihoods and a Covid payment isn’t enough to maintain a business, workers and families.”

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) labelled the Government’s treatment of the pub industry as “appalling”, adding that the latest measure, on pubs keeping receipts for 28 days, was “implemented at minimal notice with zero advance communication”.

The new measure states pubs and restaurants serving food must keep till receipts recording the food customers eat.

Many feel this is just another step by the Government to make operating more difficult for publicans currently operating in tough circumstances.

An LVA spokesperson said: “This is not the way to help a sector which is really, really struggling due to decisions that have been made by the Government.

“The Government has claimed these measures will help the pubs that are still closed to reopen. How does pubs and restaurants taking note of all food provided to customers for 28 days help the pubs that are still closed, because they don’t serve food?

“Common sense would have seen the Government announce a proper plan for pubs months ago.

“It would also have seen them provide a meaningful support package for businesses whose doors they are keeping closed, rather than make a hollow announcement that consisted mainly of spin.

“Instead most of the pubs still closed will get a total of €1,600 extra grant aid for being closed for six months. The same measure as was provided to businesses in Kildare who were closed for about four weeks.”

Online Editors

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