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Last orders… are rural pubs in terminal decline?

COULD there be a slow death of rural pubs on the horizon? Figures released by ‘Hospitality Ulster’ would certainly suggest so. 
There are now around 40 fewer pubs in Fermanagh and Omagh than there was back in 2001, with around 450 jobs in pubs and bars across the area showing a 25.0% decrease since 2001 also. 
Raymond Gallagher, who was previously over ‘Blakes’ in Derrylin, admitted that he “noticed a steep decline” in the last year of working in the pub game. 
Speaking to the Herald, he said, “I think the decline of rural pubs is due to a combination of many things. 
“Stricter laws on drink driving obviously would be a major factor but I don’t think that’s the main reason, without drinking bans, pubs would still be in decline,” he said.
“The cost of living and the way society has changed are major factors. Most people can only afford one night of drinking. 
“Rural Ireland has  also changed over the last 20 years, work men would go to the pub nearly every day of the week, but that is no longer socially acceptable, more is expected of men in the family home now and rightly so,” he pointed out. 
“Customers are no longer predominantly men and things have became more equal.”
Mr Gallagher also touched on his concerns over the recent rates increase, and the “crippling” effect it will have on publicans.
“Increases to rates and the increase of wages to pay staff among other things, makes very few pubs sustainable,” he explained.
“With the cost of everything, usually an increase to the price of drink would deflect that, but this is something that very few rural pubs get away with, compared to cities. 
“No customer would challenge the price of alcohol in a city, yet here a pint should be around £5 to make reasonable profit, but you can’t expect regular customers to pay that and they won’t. So you can’t win really!”
He added, “In this day and age I think one or two pubs in an area is enough, I don’t know how some areas can sustain five – six pubs in one town.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA