English University researchers are to spend a year studying the Irish pub – in an effort to rescue the ailing industry.
The Vintners Federation of Ireland is funding the research in a bid to stop the decline of the traditional Irish bar.
The Federation is alarmed by the closure of 1,100 Irish pubs in the last five years.
Rural communities have borne the brunt of the closures with the researchers from York University now set to investigate their decline.
The research team will be led by Dr Ignazio Cabras, the real ale-loving son of an Italian vineyard owner.
He told the Irish Independent that he wants to explore the role village pubs play in local communities and find ways of halting their decline.
A lecturer in economics, business and management at York University’s Management School, Dr Cabras spent six years conducting similar research on the state of English country inns.
He told the paper: “Rural pubs are in serious decline. However, they often have a vital role to play in both the social and economic wellbeing of a rural community.
“From providing an outlet for the sale of local produce, to a meeting place for a local sports club, to a focal point for a charitable activity, rural pubs are often at the heart of the rural community.
“Pubs are also important generators of part-time and casual employment. This is often more important in rural areas where work opportunities for some categories of people, such as students and women with families, are frequently reduced.”
Dr Cabras also said the business in Britain and Ireland is very different.
He added: “Pub companies are the main players in the UK and own the majority of public houses.
“In Ireland, 90pc are independently owned. The majority of pubs are still family-run, one-bar operations, although the recession has forced many businesses to reduce their opening hours and staff.
“This situation may have caused the closure of many village and rural pubs, which experience less custom compared with those located in urban areas.”
The research team findings and those from a 14-month study into rural pubs in England will be presented at the Beeronomics Conference next year at York University.
Ireland’s Vintner’s Federation fear that a further 800 pubs are in serious financial trouble with 4,800 jobs at risk.
Federation chief Padraig Cribben said 20 per cent of its members are at crisis point.
Cribben said: “It is intended that this study will quantify the real benefits that pubs bestow in rural areas.
“Dr Cabras and his team have great experience and expertise and we hope to have quantitative and qualitative data that will allow us to further demonstrate the importance of the pub in the local community.”