Het verschijnsel pub in Ierland dreigt uit te gaan sterven.
Voor het eerst in de geschiedenis is de verkoop van alcoholische drank in pubs lager dan die in winkels. De oorzaak wordt met name gezien in de invoering van het rookverbod. Vooral de landelijke kroegen sluiten in groten getale (300 sinds januari) of gaan over tot de verkoop van maaltijden (en vormen zo een bedreiging voor de reguliere restaurants). In Dublin en omgeving is de omzet van pubs in diezelfde tijd met 40% gedaald.
De oorspronkelijke pub-bezoekers blijven liever thuis en drinken daar hun borreltje of wijntje.
De Nederlandse horeca gaat een moeilijke tijd tegemoet. Veel moeilijker dan een Stivoro of Minister Klink ons willen doen geloven.
Just six years ago 70pc of alcohol sales were in pubs. But this year, according to Diageo figures, that figure will have dropped to 48pc. The trend is set to continue, says Mr Patten, with trade sales forecast to decline by a further 5pc in the coming year.
Aside from lifestyle changes, a series of government regulations haven’t helped. First there was the smoking ban; then the Groceries Order last year deregulated drink sales in the off-trade. Now the fear factor associated with random breath testing means that punters are more likely to do their drinking at home.
“If the consumer is shifting from on-trade (pubs) to off-trade that’s shaping what they’re drinking and when they’re drinking,” says Mr Patten.
About 70pc of beer is sold in pubs which means the shift to home drinking saw beer’s share of the alcohol mix drop to 50pc this year compared with 70pc in 1997. Wine on the other hand has risen from 8pc of the market 10 years ago to 22pc today.
Markets adapt and, in an effort to lure people back, the most successful pubs are focusing more on food.
“Almost by accident more and more pubs are moving towards the cafe style that Michael McDowell envisaged some years back but it’s by force of marketplace rather than by force of licensing,” says Mr Patten.
Louis Fitzgerald owns a range of Dublin-based pubs, both suburban and city centre, along with The Quays in Galway and The Roost in Maynooth.
“In the last number of years we’ve seen a decline in sales of alcohol in our pubs. We’ve rescued it somewhat and rescued our costs. I’d be happy enough where I am now but we’ve been working very hard to promote and upgrade our pubs.”
Food is a critical part of the mix, he says. “We’re looking at incorporating more restaurants into the pubs. We’ve had pub food up to now but we’re looking at expanding that.”