” It’s a question of survival. It’s not about making money’ – publicans get creative as energy prices soar

For Paul Moynihan, owner of Moynihan’s bar in Donard, Co Wicklow, the goal for this winter is not to make a profit but to survive. He turns off appliances at night, tries to get hold of a generator and reduces the open space of his pub in an attempt to weather the colder months during the energy crisis.

His electricity bill went from €800 per month to around €2,500.

“That’s a lot of money for a small business,” he says. “It’s astronomical. They also say there could be a question mark around the availability of electricity between 5 and 7 [pm] which is a very important moment for us in terms of trading.

“It’s a double-edged sword. It is cost plus availability. We don’t know where we are to know if we will get it.

Moynihan, the chairman of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), is looking at everything that consumes electricity on the premises to see if it can be reduced.

“When I go out at night now, I turn off as much as I can. Before, you would have left your bottle coolers on and stuff like that, but now everything turns off,” he says. money or not is another thing, sometimes when you turn things off they have to be replenished.

Some companies talk about not opening on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays because they are quiet days

Moynihan has been in contact with an electrician to find a generator for the company to prepare for possible outages.

“There is a shortage of generators at the moment. We need one to do the coolers because without the coolers we can’t serve draft beer, which is probably 80% of our business,” he adds. “We could manipulate candles around the pub and provide battery-operated LED lights, but it’s for the cooling system that we need a generator.”

Moynihan has three areas in his pub, one of which has a stove and this is the side he will mainly open.

“There will be overflow at the weekend, but during the week I will only open what I can economically open, that is to say the side with the stove. It’s a question of survival. It’s not about making money, it’s about getting through the winter.

Galway publican Joe Sheridan also intends to get a generator as “electricity is just as vital to the business as it is to customers”.

“In our scenario, pubs are heavy consumers of electricity in the late afternoon. In areas of potential electricity reduction and grid weakness…this can be solved quite easily by small generators,” he said.

“There is one thing that he is expensive, there is another if he is absent. If you’re in the gastro or pub game, electricity is a must. We have to put things in place to get us out of the obstacle.

Michael O’Donovan, owner of The Castle Inn in Cork, says people have been ‘warned’ when going out in recent weeks and are not spending as much due to cost of living pressures.

“They are all afraid of what awaits them, which has a ripple effect on our sales. People are spending less and our bills are going up,” he says. He also plans to install battery-powered LED lights, as well as putting refrigerators, coolers and other necessary electrical equipment on timers.

“The heating that comes on now, we try to turn it on in the parts of the building that are occupied instead of heating everything at once,” he says. “Some businesses talk about not opening on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays because those are the quiet days. We will try to stay open for seven days.”

Doyle’s Corner, a pub in Phibsborough, Dublin, is offering customers 20% off their food bill every Tuesday in October, if they wear their coats.

To help struggling businesses, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe announced the Temporary Business Energy Support Program in last month’s budget, which will cover 40% of rising electricity bills or gas, up to a maximum of €10,000 per month.

Although this decision was welcomed by the publicans, they say that it will not solve the difficulties to come.

Pat Crotty, owner of Paris Texas Bar and Restaurant in Kilkenny, says the price increases aren’t just for energy, with food also driving up spending.

“We sell a lot of food as well as drinks, especially meat of all kinds has increased significantly,” he says. “Some of that was driven by energy, and some of it was driven by other things such as power cost. [and] increasing transport. It’s fair on every level.

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