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Opinion: Stout stubbornness is a virtue

by Jimmy Rhatigan
Pat Crotty

IT IS enough to drive one to drink.

Our week got off to a sticky start as the price of porter got another hike.

A sister hike to earlier increases, one might say, another pain in the arse for publicans and most certainly a left hook that could send tipplers staggering.

Brewing giant Diageo that keeps Guinness and a multiplicity of other alcoholic beverages flowing is the culprit as it followed rival Heineken that had led the way with a whopping rise.

So it was perhaps a case of monkey see, monkey do. 

The latest hike is 4 cents that multiplies to 10 cents when Vat and a publican’s lifeline are added.

City publican Pat Crotty of Paris Texas, a former President of the Vintners Federation of Ireland explained that if a publican didn’t match the Diageo price hike he or she would eventually go to the wall.

“Margins without going like for like simply wouldn’t keep a business afloat,” he told Kilkenny Press.

He cited Sky television as a major cost for publicans.

Last year Heineken slammed a whopping minimum of 45 cents on its products, a 17% low blow as Covid continued to take its toll on trade and commerce in the life and times of publicans involved in a trial of now you see me, now you don’t. Lockdowns hurt.

Pat Crotty, never shy about speaking his mind, has accused Diageo of boxing clever by upping the ante after Heineken had got away with its smash and grab.

‘We might as well do it also’ he said was the attitude of brewing giant Diageo that cleverly followed in the footsteps of its competitor.

He said Diageo would have taken into account all of its costs for the year with its first increase. 

The second stab at the rasher, my words not Pat’s, ironically came last February as the price of electricity and diesel, perhaps two of Diageo’s bigger costs, began to ease.

In other words a Diageo company that had just amassed huge profits was looking after itself, Pat added. 

The view of Kilkenny Press is that it was a case of To Hell or to Connacht for publicans and punters.

Reality is that like our people had done when our dodgy banks  collapsed thirsty punters who usually sing the praises of the exciting tipple that carries the name of Arthur Guinness, are now footing the bills of the high and mighty at a time when many cannot afford to pay their own way.

The mind boggles. The glass is half empty.

Our view is that anyone who ever believed that the trinity of brewers, publicans and punters lived on a two-way street was living in cuckoo land. 

That bird is well clocked as Diageo and Heineken travel a high road as the so-called peripherals, publicans and punters – both vital cogs in a big wheel – are herded to long and winding roads.

So where does our famous Irish pub stand at a time when much wants more and the little man continues to shrink?

Back to Pat Crotty who sums it up with admirable courage that could be stunted a tale of woe.

“Yes, unfortunately we have lost good publicans and may lose more,” Pat explained.

“I am prepared to stay and invest,” he said. 

“Kilkenny is a very strong place. In the short to medium term our capacity as publicans is being hampered by the number of hotel and other beds not available to visitors to our city and we also have post-Covid obligations to Revenue that are due next year.

“The latter is money that accumulated during Covid; created a cushion for us to stay alive. All it amounted to was a loan that will shortly be due for repayment.

“There will be those who will not be able to pay. That will be a serious time of reckoning. A tough time,” he added.

That Paris Texas, trading in a premises that was once home to Woolworths, a one-time giant pioneer in the retail business, may now have more staff than a well-staffed ‘Woolies’ has to be proof positive of its phenomenal growth, success and professionalism in a whirlwind era for local pubs.

For the record, 80 men and women collect wages at our local Paris, 40 of them full-time equivalents.

Instead of moaning we should perhaps raise a glass to a gargantuan business achievement.

Whatever about Guinness and Heineken, let’s support our local pubs.

Stout stubbornness has to be a virtue.

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