Rural pub owners in Clare are at risk of not pulling pints again following confirmation that their doors would remain shut for another three weeks, at least.
On Tuesday evening, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF) announced that the forced of closures of pubs not serving food, hotel bars, nightclubs and casinos stays unchanged. “I know that this will come as a blow to pub owners and I want them to know that I have enormous sympathy for their plight. This virus is taking away their ability to earn a living. It is stopping them from providing a key service in the heart of many communities, especially in rural Ireland,” he stated.
Not alone has the news caused anger among rural publicans but some are furious with the comments of the Taoiseach.
David O’Brien, proprietor of Michael A’s Bar in Miltown Malbay when asked for his views on the Taoiseach’s remarks stated, “I’d love to see him understanding the plight, he will pick up more in wages this week than a rural pub has got in grants from the Government since March. I’d love to know how he could understand that plight”.
Michael A’s is one of the Clare pubs that remains shut. O’Brien detailed that the financial support they are receiving from Government will be not enough to sustain rural pubs. “Most businesses would be averaging between €2,500 and €3,000 a month in outgoings since March, as it stands now we’ve worked out that somewhere in the lines of €14 per day that we’ve received off the Government”.
He told The Clare Echo, “They showed totally how detached they are from the reality of a rural businesses who has 75 to 80 percent of their income for a year made up between March and August, that is money that won’t be got back now. The bills will still be there in November, nobody knows if they will be able to pay them or not now”.
Rural business has been neglected in the July Stimulus Package, the Miltown Malbay man believed. “People are starting to wonder now will the pubs ever reopen again, the bills haven’t stopped even though the reopening date has been pushed back and back, the bills that businesses have been paying since March continue to come in and still have to be paid. Over the last couple of months, the Government have shown that they are totally detached from the reality of a business in rural Ireland especially one that is closed. Very little in the July Stimulus last week had any effect on how a business was going to support itself while it was closed, the fact they came out yesterday and said we would look into how we can support this industry which more or less said we haven’t really considered how we’d support ye for the last four months but we might now”.
Ongoing uncertainty surrounding their future has been described by David as “a nightmare”. He said publicans had been waiting by the phone all day Monday and Tuesday but received no communication prior to the announcement on Tuesday evening.
“We’ve been denied an opportunity to trade, maybe it would or wouldn’t have worked but the thing that really bothers is that some places have been given guidelines in different industries whether it is factories or whatever, they’ve been given their guidelines and openly flouted them, there’s clusters appearing all over the place and there doesn’t seem to be any repercussions for that whereas we’re not even getting the opportunity to attempt to implement them”.
Publicans have had their fill when it comes to the sentiment of leading politicians regarding their “plight”. O’Brien commented, “Fair enough if it’s public health to keep pubs closed, that is one thing but don’t come out and say we sympathise or whatever because you’ve done nothing over the last five months to show any sympathy because you’ve done nothing to help us. They keep saying ‘we sympathise, we understand’ but there has been no package put in place to support those businesses. A lot of the anger is because people thought Tuesday was last chance saloon to save their business and it went. Whatever the good reason is for keeping pubs closed, it won’t pay the bills right now, that’s the problem”.