Loretto: How long have you been at the Jim Edwards Pub and Restaurant in Kinsale?
Liam: Well, it is in its 40th year. It is the longest running establishment in Kinsale. Under one owner.
Loretto: That is fantastic, congratulations on that. You have been in the business so long that you would have witnessed a difference in numbers? Have you seen things change in the last 10 years?
Liam: Basically you have seen the demise of the drinking trade in the pubs over the last 10 years. We have concentrated on food, but even that, we have seen a demise in.…where people would have come to have a meal and a couple of drinks, the now have their meal and a glass of wine. The bottle of wine is gone, they now just have their glass of wine. The Irish coffee business is gone, you know that kind of a way? And in the old days when the older gentleman would come out for his pint, that business is completely gone. Before, we had a night trade, where at about 10 o’clock these older gentlemen would come in can have their drinks, to have a pint and a drop, they passed away, and no one replaced them, that business is totally gone.
Loretto: So, the local trade is gone?
Liam: Yeah, there are still some bars that do the local trade.
Loretto: And what do you think has contributed to the demise of that trade?
Liam: It would vary with the different age levels. A lot of them would be drinking at home as well, you know? What used to happen was that people would meet up at the pub, but now they meet up at your house. I suppose what you do have now, which is a problem, is the huge, massive supermarkets selling the drinking so cheap. So they are watching their money, they’re getting their nice bottle of wine, their nice bottle of champy at home, they are meeting their friends and they’re coming out a bit later. With the younger generation, they are getting their alcohol pops at home, like, the night club owners are saying that the average spend for a customer is about €15 per night, you know, they’re coming out so late, they’ve had their drink at home, they are just going out to socialize really now like you know? That’s a big factor, the drinking at home. And with the older generation, the plus 50s, the reason they don’t come out to drink anymore is because of the drunk driving. It basically they can’t have a pint and then get into their car and drive home, the midweek drinking has been killed by that. I wouldn’t say killed by it, I obviously do agree with the drink driving laws, you know, but it has done damage to the midweek pub trade. Where you would need able to get a designated driver on the weekend, they’d be going out in threes or fours, or going out for a meal then somebody decides not to drink, but during the week if somebody wants a couple of drinks, you just have to stay at home basically.
Loretto: And in town like Kinsale, Liam, that is a great tourist town, have you seen pubs close their doors in the last few years?
Liam: Oh yeah! Outside my window, one of the biggest local bars, has just closed its doors before Christmas. So I would say four or five of the local bars have definitely closed in the last four or five years, I am saying the local bars now, the drinking bars, they’ve just closed down.
Loretto: So the ones that have a fighting chance, are the ones that serve food, are restaurants and have accommodations?
Liam: Well for us personally, that’s the kind of angle, before the recession, we decided we would concentrate a lot on food like, they are the ones with a fighting chance. I think that in every town about Kinsale’s size there is room for about three or four drinking bars. Were they would just concentrate on the drink, but going back 10 years ago there would have been 10 of these bars but now there’s only room for three or four in a town the size of Kinsale. You know?
Loretto: Now, somebody did tell me that a government official came out and said that he was going to deliberately change the drinking culture in Ireland? And I guess, they were trying to enforce and maybe have successfully done so, some very strict laws. Do you think that that has contributed to the demise of these pubs?
Liam: Yeah. Especially the location of the country pubs. That definitely is the demise of it. I suppose the drink driving laws are a bit of a catch 22 situation, number one they are trying to do very good and it is hard for the publicans not to stand up and say, “ you can’t say that we can’t get into it.” But I think a lot of these statistics of the drink driving laws are misinterpreted. The fellow coming in and having two or three pints is less likely to cause an accident than the young lad that is driving around for five in the morning, you know what I mean? I don’t know how you would balance that out, I don’t think it’s possible. You can’t have one law for another, and one law for some people, you know? Having said that, the government are still fighting in our corner or in another way. They are trying to improvise this cheap alcohol that is being given out, the kind of trying to make a price structure on that. That will help us a little bit, you know, definitely.
Loretto: Are they trying to unify the prices of the alcohol that is being sold?
Liam: Yeah. I can honestly say that the supermarkets would be selling drink for very little margin just to get people in their door and I think they’re using drink as a base just to get people in their door which shouldn’t be, alcohol shouldn’t be used as a bait because of it’s dangers obviously, you know. And people are saying look I can get 20 bottles of beer for €20, and then you come into a bar and it is four euros a bottle. I think the comparison is a bit unfair for the publican who has these massive overheads, these massive rates,… These massive… You know?
Loretto: Now, have you seen a lot of immigration in Kinsale? Has that affected your business?
Liam: You would. A lot of the younger clientele that you would’ve seen throughout the years, they are just now coming in anymore. And you wonder, are they gone? Have they lost their jobs? Are they just not going out? So, I know personally myself I have a lot of friends who are gone. They are not gone to Australia for a lifestyle change, as one politician said, you know? They are gone for work, and for the money, and to survive, and hopefully save a bit like you know? You do see it, it is everywhere, like, you know?
Loretto: I see on the web here that some pubs are just opening for the high peak season. Is that one strategy that you are seeing?
Liam: Yeah. You will see that more in the color bar trade where it is not that expensive to have one man behind the bar, and you just hope for the best like you know? But they are not making money. I say in Kinsale a lot of the pubs are open year-round. You find with the restaurants, inadvertently with their drinks trade, that they’d close throughout the winter. They can’t take a chance with the volume of chefs they have to bring in. Do you know what I mean? But I would say that the pubs are open, but they are just curtailing their hours. You know? Where a pub would open at half 10 in the morning, by law they don’t open now until 4 or 5 you know? Like, you can drive through town now, if you were on your way to Dublin and you just veered off to a town, I would say there would be two or three pubs open in a large town during the week, during the day as well you know? They all start opening at about five or six because there is no trade there during the day anymore like you know?
Loretto: You yourself Liam, have you seen a change in the volume of tourists coming to Kinsale over the last 3 to 5 years?
Liam: To be quite honest, about three years ago the volume was down. What we find out with the Irish tourists, and with the foreign tourists as well is that we are getting the people in but, they are spending less. So, we are working as hard but were not making the same amount of money, if you know what I mean? Like, they are spending less, like. I think the biggest battle is to get them in the door, and if they’re going to spend less, they are going to spend less, there’s nothing you can do about that. So you would find, like I said before, that he used to start a night out at seven, but not anymore. They go out a bit later and there’s always one person who is not drinking. They’re spending less, basically they’re just spending less you know? Is not the volume, the volume of tourists in Kinsale is good, you know?
Loretto: Well, it has always been a nice tourist town and hopefully that will help the bar and tourist trade.
Liam: Yeah. Hopefully.
Loretto: Liam thank you very much.