By Paul O’Malley
Publicans in Westport have warned local councillors they will be put out of business due to soaring costs.
Standing orders were suspended at the beginning of last week’s Westport-Belmullet Municipal District meeting to allow representatives from the Westport branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) to highlight the stark realities their industry is facing.
Michael Henehan, the owner of a family bar on Bridge Street that employs 20 people, said he has always honoured his commitment to paying commercial rates but is facing an 80% increase in his rates bill following the recent reevaluation. In addition, his energy bills have soared by 104%, insurance costs have increased by 40% and he is spending an extra 10% on wages.
“Businesses and communities will crumble without support. We are asking ye to represent us as best as you can because we fear we won’t be here any longer,” he told councillors.
Cllr Christy Hyland said it is not right to punish publicans who are creating jobs for local people. He said the onus is on the Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar to ensure that something is done to help businesses survive these challenges.
“It will be so important that you take your challenge right to the very top,” he told the VFI members. “I have met people in business who are scared of what is coming, they have had tears in their eyes. We need to reach out to the Minister for Enterprise because the buck stops with him.”
Cllr Brendan Mulroy said he cannot imagine how publicans in other parts of Mayo are coping if the situation is this bad in Westport.
“If this is what is happening in Westport, which has the footfall of being a strong tourist town, then God help the rest of the county. Either we all step up to the mark or we don’t.”
Belmullet-based Cllr Seán Carey said he is aware of a community group in his area who rent a premises for their activities and have been hit with a 200% increase in the commercial rates bill.
“This is very disheartening for them,” he said. “If this continues, there will be no businesses in the future in Mayo.”
Achill-based Cllr Paul McNamara warned that businesses will likely close and shops and supermarkets are also under serious threat over the next few years.
“A tsunami is coming and businesses will hold their hands up and wonder why they are paying these rates. They won’t be able to do that unless they increase the cost of their product and if they do that, they’ll have no customers.”