Limerick publicans appeal to Noonan on excise duty

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

LIMERICK vintners have appealed to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan not to increase the price of a pint in the budget, warning more pubs will go under.

LIMERICK vintners have appealed to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan not to increase the price of a pint in the budget, warning more pubs will go under.

Jerry O’Dea, chairman of the Limerick city vintners, said most city pubs have had no choice but to increase the price of a pint by 10 cent in recent weeks following price hikes by brewing giants Diageo and Heineken, who between them supply most of the popular draught beers.

John Halpin, chairman of the County Limerick vintners, said many publicans in the county are reluctant to pass on the brewer’s increase to their customers.

“They are afraid that if they put the price of a pint [of Guinness] over €4 that they will lose even more of their trade, things are gone so bad,” said the Croom publican.

“A lot of pubs, particularly in smaller places, that used to open at 10.30am and then pushed it out to 12pm and 2pm aren’t opening now until 5pm or 6pm because it’s just not worth it for the sake of the two or three you might have in to have somebody helping out at the bar or to keep the heating on the way fuel prices have gone,” said Mr Halpin. Other costs - such as Sky Sports and brewers prices - have also squeezed the rural publican.

Mr Halpin said Minister Noonan should examine supermarkets and the off-trade in the budget. “They are selling litres of spirits now for 15% less than what we can buy it for - it’s ridiculous. We would appeal to Michael Noonan as a man who likes a pint himself and knows the trouble pubs are in to find a way not to hit the ordinary pint-drinker,” said Mr Halpin.

Jerry O’Dea, meanwhile, said city publicans had absorbed the latest VAT increase but had little choice to raise the price of a pint after Diageo and Heineken both increased their price to the publican by five cent, exclusive of VAT. And if Minister Noonan decides to increase excise on beer in the budget, drinkers could be hit again.

“In the current climate, any increase in excise would be very bad for us because of the law of diminishing returns in economics, where people just stop buying a product, kicks in - that’s what’s happening in pubs,” Mr O’Dea said.

“Pubs would have no choice but to pass on any such increase. We wouldn’t be keeping any of it, it would be going from the customer, through us, and straight to the government,” he added.