Northern Ireland news

Pub alcohol increases not `profiteering' rather, only chance to avoid going bust

Publicans who have increased the price of alcohol as bars have reopened following the Covid-19 lock-down are not "profiteering" rather, trying to keep their businesses afloat, it was claimed last night.
Marie Louise McConville

PUBLICANS who have increased the price of alcohol as bars have reopened following the Covid-19 lock-down are not "profiteering" rather, trying to keep their businesses afloat, it was claimed last night.

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, urged those complaining about the increase in the price of a pint to not forget the "hidden costs" bar owners are trying to absorb.

He was speaking following reports that the price of a pint for premium beer in some outlets had risen to £6.50 in Belfast.

Some pub owners said small increases of between 10p and 20p had been added to the price of a pint of lager as a knock-on effect of brewery price hikes and also increased costs from suppliers.

Around Belfast, the price of a pint of Guinness can vary between £4.80 and £5.60 while a pint of larger can cost between £3.30 and £6.50 for a premium brand.

However Mr Neill, said customers "don't know what debts have to be paid" in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, and Brexit.

"All of those raw materials and labour costs have gone up when we were shut,” he said.

"People have been using low cost alcohol from supermarkets and it is the case that when you buy a pint or a glass of wine in a bar, you are paying for the building, the seating, the staff, the lighting, the toilets, the water charges.

"When you buy a can of beer and come home, do you add on the cost of the settee and the TV and Sky?"

Mr Neill said "nobody wants to put up prices".

"I don't think anyone is profiteering and why is there a difference from one premises to another? Their mortgage, their costs, they have more debt.

"There are rises that would have happened normally, during Covid".

Mr Neill said any increase was the result of coming out of the pandemic and Brexit.

He said many bars, which are currently only allowed to operate at 60 per cent capacity, need between 70 and 75 per cent to "break even".

"Most of the time our guys are paying more for their products but we are required to buy it from a licensed wholesaler,” he said.

"One third of a pint goes to straight to the Exchequer. It's normal inflation plus Covid plus Brexit. They are trying to break even".

He added: “Lots of people forget the hidden costs.

"No one wants to put up prices and indeed, we see members really trying not to, but if they don't put up their prices they go bust".

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