By Javier Aja
Dublin, Jun 18 (EFE).- The pub industry in Ireland, a major tourist attraction in the Emerald Isle and an integral part of Irish culture, is going through difficult times due to a shortage of labor in the hospitality sector.
“We have lost roughly one third of our staff from pre-Covid times, half of those are international staff who have returned to their home countries and have not come back to Ireland, and half of them are staff who have left the hospitality sector to go and work in other jobs,” Donall O’Keeffe, CEO of the Licensed Victuallers Association (LVA), one of Ireland’s longest-running lobbies, tells EFE.
From small village pubs, where pints run between the folk of local musicians, to more sophisticated pubs in bigger cities hosting DJ’s, the Irish pub plays a significant role in the country’s economy.
“It is in every parish, in every village, in every town in every city in the country, it plays a big part in our tourism offer, it plays a huge part in our nightlife and our scene, it is integral to the Irish economy,” O’Keeffe says.
According to the CEO, the lack of staff in the industry is a result of strict Covid-19 restrictions that forced the closure of the hospitality sector for so long.
“In Dublin, hospitality was restricted for 22 full months, (…) so lots of staff went on and got jobs in construction, retail, distribution and have left the industry all together.
“We are short staffed, it’s the single biggest issue now inhibiting our full recovery,” O’Keeffe says, adding that pubs in rural areas have been forced to close certain days of the week simply due to a lack of staff.
Since 1817, the LVA has represented a significant number of “public houses” turning pubs into a symbol of Ireland and its tourism.
Their power of influence is great and throughout the years they have led successful campaigns to oppose legislative measures. In 2005, IVA managed to stop a bill to grant alcohol licenses to coffee shops in the wake of their increasing popularity and business.
In 2018, they managed to convince the government to allow the opening of pubs on Good Friday, a Christian holiday, for the first time in 91 years.
In pre-Covid times, the pub sector offered 50,000 jobs and had a gross turnover of £7 billion, according to O’Keeffe.
Today, there are three key issues, he says.
“We need to improve the visa system for non-EU workers to facilitate recruitment and bring them in more quickly,” O’Keeffe says.
The pub industry also needs a “long-term strategy and investment” plan to train workers and an “intensive marketing campaign” to attract all the workers who left the industry during the pandemic to return. EFE