The rural pub has been likened to an unofficial community centre
A stark warning was issued by a local councillor that rural pubs in Co Leitrim, often regarded as unofficial social centres, will be lost if they are not properly supported in their endeavours to re-open.
The warning was issued by Cllr Des Guckian at last Monday's meeting of Carrick-on-Shannon Municipal District where he called on the government to give a major 'start back up' grant to publicans and restaurateurs in rural areas and for the Council to cut their rates by half for the next two years.
“Our area is a very rural area and in rural areas the pub has always been regarded as the unofficial social centre,” Cllr Guckian said.
He added there has been a large amount of isolation in rural areas, contacts have been lost and there are many mental health issues arising,
“You can call this a form of social engineering if you want but pubs in rural areas must be kept going,” he said.
His motion was supported by all members.
Cllr Des Guckian said he tabled the motion because some publicans have indicated that without a start-up grant they will not be re-opening.
He said the government must give special grants to publicans and to restaurant owners to help them get their businesses up and running again.
“Over the past 15 months publicans are amongst the worst hit. they were robbed of an income,” he stated.
Cllr Guckian said that eve before Covid, publicans were already badly confined in their opening hours. He said some have told him they will be closing and won't be changing their minds unless something happens.
“Without ongoing real grants the cost to them would be prohibitive,” he said, citing the costs of insurance, re-stocking, alterations inside and around their premises, cleaning and sanitisation.
Cllr Guckian said publicans were also facing low income as former patrons might wish to stay home for some time.
“A place that has both a pub and a restaurant will have a slight advantage but the points already mentioned will apply,” he added.
Cllr Guckian said the Covid emergency will not end soon and the government must give a major start back up grant to each publican and restaurateur.
“I believe the Council rates should be cut in half for two years to allow a return to what we might think as normal,” he added.
A detailed reply from Director of Services for Economic Development, Planning, Environment and Transportation. Joseph Gilhooley pointed out that Leitrim County Council paid out a total of €4.2 million in funding to businesses in the county under the Restart Grant Scheme and the Restart Grant Scheme Plus in 2020.
A significant number of those grants were paid to businesses in the hospitality sector including pubs and restaurants.
These grants were paid to businesses to assist them with the cost of re-opening their premises following the initial 'lockdown' restrictions that were in place arising from the pandemic in 2020.
The Council is administering the Outdoor Dining Scheme which provides up to €4,000 grant aid (at 75% funding) to support businesses in the hospitality sector to adopt their dining service to the outdoors, the report concluded.
Cllr Guckian said he read the reply but it referred to history. “Any easements are welcome but we have got to think of a long recovery and that could be two years at least and possibly more. It's to give publicans who are struggling and struggling badly a bit of hope,” he said.
Cathaoirleach, Cllr Paddy Farrell supported the motion and said country pubs are badly needed for people who don't get out very much or see anyone from one end of the week to another.
Cllr Sean McGowan also supported the motion and said the country pub is synonymous with rural Ireland.
“Publicans have suffered greatly and are suffering from the pandemic and there are some that won't re-open,” he said and knows of one in a village that is definitely not re-opening.
He welcomed the grant of up to €4,000 given to the pubs and restaurants that he said are hopefully reopening in the next month or six weeks.
“It's a small drop in the ocean but welcome nonetheless,” he said.
Cllr Thomas Mulligan and Cllr Finola Armstrong- McGuire also welcomed the grant.
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