Irish pubs in danger of extinction as new rules bite
Smoking ban, drunk driving laws add up to closures
Dan Danaher was in The Old Mill Bar on the night it closed, Nov. 5, 2010. By then the staff had dwindled to five as trade had fallen off. He said that as a few people shed tears that night, owner Kathleen Sciascia said, “People can’t afford to go out and eat and drink as much as before. If we kept going it would have got worse.”
Village community chairman Mick Murtagh described it as the end of an era.
“The survival of villages like O’Briensbridge is a big issue,” he warned.
“People are bypassing local shops to buy cheaper goods in large supermarkets in Limerick. It’s something that we are all guilty of.”
In the city of Limerick 9 miles to the south, Gordon Kearney, director of Rooney auctioneers, which is handling the sale of The Old Mill, agreed that in all pubs “trade has diminished somewhat.”
The firm once handled the sale of 20-30 pubs a year, he said, but sold only three last year, partly because the banks are not making loans to prospective buyers.
In the traditional Irish pub, one could find farmers nursing a pint of Guinness at the bar while discussing sports and the weather, and young people in wood-paneled booths enjoying craic, or good conversation, over glasses of beer.
The loss of the traditional low-key pub now threatens Irish identity, writes American author Bill Barich in his 2010 book, “A Pint of Plain.”
Now a resident of Ireland, Barich complains that many pubs are lifeless museum pieces or sports bars broadcasting television commentary all day.
While the number of bar licenses in the Republic of Ireland has fallen from 8,922 to 7,616 since 2005, the Irish are not drinking less, according to the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland. Sales of alcohol increased by 6 percent in the first half of last year but sales over the bar counter fell by 15 percent.
Below-cost selling by supermarkets is chiefly to blame, said Gerry Mellett, president of the Vintners Federation of Ireland in the Irish Times.
“It is no exaggeration,” he said, “to say that the closure of rural pubs in particular is having a devastating effect on the fabric of life in rural Ireland.”
Anyone who visits O’Briensbridge today will see that he is not exaggerating.
*This article first appeared in Globalpost.com
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