Report highlights pub’s role in creating economic development and social wellbeing in rural Ireland

  • 7,400 Pubs operating in Ireland with 50,000 employed by Irish pubs
    • ·         €60.7 million generated in wages and estimated total of €2.1m injected by pubs in their local supply chains


Today, the findings of an academic study conducted by the University of York and Newcastle Business School (Northumbria University) and prepared for the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland has revealed the central role that pubs play in creating economic development and social wellbeing in rural Ireland. Figures from the research show the significant contribution that the Irish pub makes to the economy with 50,000 employed by Irish pubs and how important the pub is to the local economy.


The economic importance of the rural pub is further highlighted with €60.7 million generated in wages alone. Pubs surveyed also used local suppliers regularly; calculations made on responses indicate a total of €2.1 million injected by pubs within their local supply chains, with each pub spending approximately €600 a month in local businesses.


The pubs surveyed provide a snapshot into local economies and were selected in parishes with a resident population of less than 3,000 located at least five miles or ten minutes’ drive from parishes with a population of 5,000 and above.

The social and economic role played by pubs in rural Ireland is evident from the qualitative findings undertaken by researchers showing that local residents significantly value the pub. The closure of rural pubs is strongly associated with the decline of social drinking and increasing levels of alcohol consumption in private premises, fuelled by cheap prices available in the off-licence sector.


The majority of pub owner respondents surveyed indicated high levels of cost; with their revenue sunk into managing costs, mainly associated with employment, service rates, suppliers and taxation. Interviews conducted on behalf of the researchers with pub owners and managers also identify costs associated with licensing, regulations and rates as significant burdens for their overheads.


The comprehensive one year study also indicated that publicans were pleased with the drop in the VAT rate on food served in pubs and restaurants introduced by the Government. However, the rate of VAT at 23% applied to drinks and beverages is still perceived as excessive and a significant issue by the vast majority of pub owners.


Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said; “The Irish pub already accounts for 50,000 jobs and this report by the University of York highlights the massive role the pub plays in rural areas with an estimated €2.1 million injected by pubs in their local supply chains.

As well as that, the Irish pub has played and continues to play a pivotal role in Irish tourism. Recent research shows that over 80% of tourists use the pub for food and/or entertainment and it is the number one tourist attraction.”


Dr Ignazio Cabras, Reader at Newcastle Business School and principal investigator in this study said; “Aside the importance of pubs in relation to economies and supply chains in rural Ireland, this study has examined the significantrole pubs play within local communities. Our findings clearly identify pubs as main centres for social activities and engagement, in a context frequently characterised by reduced facilities and opportunities. For instance, the majority of communal activities occurring in villages and rural parishes such as those related to clubs or sport teams are likely to originate within pubs or to be supported by publicans with financial and logistic resources.


Publicans also support almost all volunteering initiatives and charity events. Local residents approached for this study frequently described publicans as ‘pillars’ and ‘sentinels’ of their communities, with pubs functioning as information centres as well as informal job-centres by matching demand and supply for local employment by using mostly word-of-mouth communication. In the light of these considerations, halting the decline of pubs in rural Ireland becomes even more relevant and urgent.”



About the research:


The study assesses the effects generated by pubs on rural supply chains and local employment as well as pubs on community wellbeing and social engagement. The report was compiled during a one year research period using surveys, focus groups and interviews.


By using a database provided by the VFI and comprising data of nearly 3,700 pubs located nationwide, the researchers identified 1,744 pubs meeting the criteria to be considered rural pub. These pubs were approached with a survey questionnaire in order to investigate their pattern of purchasing and their impact within local economies.

The survey questionnaire was administered between 15 June and 31 July 2013.  Questionnaires were mainly sent via email with about a third sent by ordinary mail. Several repeat mailings were undertaken in order to increase the response rate during the time considered.

About 94% of the pubs surveyed are independently owned businesses, with nearly half of those being active since before 1913 and a very small proportion (4%) opening in the past ten years. Two thirds of these businesses are wet pubs, while about 26% serve food and another 5.5% serve food and provide overnight accommodation.

About the VFI:

The VFI was established in 1973 from smaller associations for the protection and betterment of the livelihood of the individual publican.


The VFI has approximately 4,200 members and is a firmly established strong national trade organisation.

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