349 pubs in Ireland have closed since the start of the pandemic, according to recent analysis from the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) and the Licenced Vintners Association (LVA).

The closures “signal the extent of the distress faced by pubs as restrictions continue to impact the sector,” representatives of the two groups said in a statement on October 17, just days before Ireland’s nightlife sector is set to return without restrictions on October 22.

“The revelation of a 5% drop in pub licence renewals is a dramatic escalation in the crisis faced by pubs, coming just before Government will decide whether to remove all remaining Covid restrictions currently operated by the trade,” the statement said.

The figures were taken from an analysis of licence renewals published by Ireland’s Revenue Commissioners. 37 pubs closed in Cork, 33 public houses closed in both Dublin and Donegal, and 22 did not renew their licences in Kerry.

The removal of restrictions on trading as planned for this Friday, October 22 is "critically important" in light of the new figures, the VFI and LVA say.

Noting that 90 percent of people over the age of 18 in Ireland are now vaccinated, the trade organisations say that retaining the vaccine pass system would allow Government the reopening of late-night hospitality, end mandatory table service, resume bar counter service, and allow pubs to trade under normal opening hours.

The statement adds: "By the 22nd October, nightclubs and late bars will have remained closed for 585 consecutive days since the outset of the pandemic.”

The Irish government announced in August that from October 22 onward, the “final restrictions” will be lifted, including:

  • requirements for physical distancing
  • requirements for mask-wearing outdoors and in indoor private settings
  • limits on numbers at indoor and outdoor events and activities
  • restrictions on religious or civil ceremonies
  • limits on numbers that can meet in private homes/gardens
  • certification of vaccination, immunity or testing as a prerequisite for access to, or engagement in, any activities or events (with the exception of international travel)
  • restrictions on high-risk activities (for example: nightclubs)

The measures that will remain in place include:

  • self-isolation when we have symptoms
  • mask-wearing in healthcare settings, indoor retail and on public transport

Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive of the VFI, said: “These new figures reveal Covid’s dramatic impact on the trade over the past 19 months. To lose 5% of pubs in such a short timeframe is unprecedented and underlines how the pub trade bore the brunt of pandemic restrictions.

“In light of recent speculation about delaying the ending of restrictions, the news that pubs are closing across the country will only heighten anxiety in the trade. Uncertainty is a key factor in why so many pubs have closed so Government must put an end to the crisis by announcing the easing of restrictions will proceed as planned.”

Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA, said: “Losing 349 pubs across the country indicates the magnitude of what’s happened to the pub trade since March 2020. These pubs closed even with the Government supports in place.

"We think the reopening of late-night hospitality, the return of the bar counter, the end of mandatory table service, and a resumption of normal trading hours should proceed next Friday. If access is limited to those who have been vaccinated, there is no justification for not proceeding with the easing of the rest of the restrictions.

"With more than 90% of the adult population vaccinated and vaccine passes likely to remain in place, if we can’t allow hospitality to trade relatively normally now then when will we ever be able to?

“Anticipation is high ahead of the lifting of 22nd October for the simple reason that publicans are desperate to get back to normal trading. Many pubs and other hospitality businesses have been hanging on for this moment and any further delays will be a step too far for some. The Government needs to recognise delays will push more businesses over the edge where they will join the 349 pubs that have already been lost during the course of the pandemic."