The decline of rural pubs marks a “generational shift” with young people unwilling to enter the family trade if their pub is not in a prime location.
That’s according to Newstalk Breakfast host Jonathan Healy who was speaking after new research found that almost 2,000 pubs have closed their doors across Ireland since 2005.
The research from the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) notes that every county in Ireland has seen a decrease in pubs – but rural communities were the worst hit.
Limerick has been hardest hit with 32% fewer pubs in the county since 2005.
Roscommon (30.3%), Cork (29.9%) and Laois (29.9%) saw the next largest decreases.
Jonathan said that, as someone who lives in a rural area, he understands people’s concerns about the trend.
“Personally, I think it is a generational shift,” he said.
“I think a younger generation is not willing to take over from their parents or enter into the trade if the pub is not in a prime location.
“The idea of the rural pub, which would be traditionally quieter, which would have been a family-run business, that isn’t as attractive anymore.
“Add in all the expense that would be added to it. Things like having to pay for Sky Sports - paying the same that a big city pub would pay - in a rural location, it is not worth your while.
“You know, drink-driving rules, which are very worthwhile, are also having an impact.”
He said young people are rejecting the rural publican’s lifestyle.
“I think this is a natural shift and what you are seeing is people saying, well do I want to commit to this pretty appalling lifestyle? Or will I just sell the licence, make my money and go on and do something else?” he said.
“I think that is the big challenge that is out there because the expectation now is, if you buy a rural pub, you have to turn it into a gastropub and again, the expense goes up and up.”
DIGI is calling for significant cuts to excise on alcohol products to make the industry more sustainable – warning that Ireland has some of the highest excise rates in Europe on beer, wine and spirits.
Presenter Shane Coleman said the estimated €113m this would cost the Exchequer is a “huge amount of money”.
“It actually works out at about an average subsidy of €17,000 per pub,” he said. “I think that is hard to justify.
“I do think that is hard to justify and I can’t see the Government acceding to that.
“When you think of bigger pubs and the bigger the pub, the bigger the subsidy, I don’t see that happening. I don’t think that is realistic.”
He said part of the fallout is linked to a change in consumer behaviour.
“I think people are more inclined to stay at home and have a bottle of wine than head down to the local pub,” he said.
“I understand why people are concerned about it because the pub is the heart of the community in many small communities – but you can’t force people to do something they don’t want to do or that they do on a much less frequent basis.”