Belfast Telegraph

More pubs may be forced to call last orders warns chief

By Clare Weir

An increasing number of bankruptcies in the pub trade in Northern Ireland have been forecast by an industry expert as financial woes across Ireland deepen.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster was speaking after two publicans in Warrenpoint were advertised as bankrupt.

Kevin McAleenan, trading as Ocean nightclub and Michael McConville of the Boathouse Inn at Marine Parade have both been served with creditors petitions.

Mr Neill warned of worsening news for the trade in the coming months in the face of higher rates and competition from supermarkets and the off licence trade.

“The increase in the number of bankruptcies in Northern Ireland in the last year is very troubling but unfortunately it is a threat that is more likely in the pub trade given the range of pressures and costs which are negatively impacting our business,” he said.

“Pub property rates for example, are on average 30% higher compared to any other commercial property, including other sectors of the licensed trade. This, in addition to entertainment licences, insurance, electricity and other business costs means that most pubs face extortionate overheads just to open day to day.

“In addition, pubs also face unfair competition from the large supermarket chains, some of which offer below cost alcohol prices.

“Despite the £1bn that the licensed trade contributes to the local economy each year, pubs are not receiving the support and help they need from the Northern Ireland Assembly and financial institutions.

“With banks reluctant to lend and the Assembly considering several proposals that directly impact the sector, positive action is needed to prevent further closures and more publicans being forced into bankruptcy.”

Belfast Telegraph