This Thursday sees the launch of a one day campaign by several publicans around the city to highlight the amount of tax Irish people pay through VAT and excise on the alcohol that they buy in licensed premises.
The campaign, which is unofficial and not linked to the Vintners Federation, is dropping the price of pints, wine, and spirits by €1.50 to show customers how much of the money they hand over goes to the government. The idea is not to offer cheap drinks for the day in an effort to get people into the premises, but rather to make a political point on why drinks prices have risen so sharply in recent years and who is to blame.
The general public might not be too disposed to listening to the complaints of publicans, but this is one campaign that certainly unites both publican and consumer. The figures used by the ‘Support your local’ campaign earlier this year tell a fairly stark tale in how Ireland compares with our European neighbours in terms of taxation on alcohol. Tax accounts for 31% of the price of a pint of beer, 68% of a bottle of whiskey, and 64% of a bottle of wine.
The point must also be made that VAT and excise are regressive taxes that tax those on different incomes at the same rate. The fact that the government has sought to increase revenue for the state through these measures and not more progressive tax systems has attracted the ire of many who claim that while it raises some funds in the short term, it will, in the long run hurt the economy by shrinking employment in a sector that reportedly employs or supports the labour of 90,582 people countrywide.
Most of the approximately 35 participating pubs are suburban. This strengthens the point made by this group of publicans that they are not doing this to drum up business, but rather to make a political point in the run up to the next budget where they see a battle to win a reduction in excise rates, or to at least freeze them. In a suburban pub a dialogue can be opened with regular or returning customers in a way that city centre pubs would find more difficult.
The pub is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country and in order to make Ireland an attractive destination we will need to provide more value for money to these visitors. The Liberties area of Dublin is seeing a renewal of investment in the form of new breweries and distilleries that will hopefully breath commercial life into an area that currently struggles. In a few years Dublin will become a hub for drinks related tourism sites. These will include the Guinness storehouse, the Jameson distillery, the Dublin Whiskey Museum, the Dublin Whiskey Company, and the Teeling Distillery.
The point could be made that we can’t claim to be the place to visit for drinks related activities and tourism when a bottle of Irish whiskey costs more in Ireland than it does in the rest of Europe. (The average bottle in Ireland is €29.18 , and €17.56 in Germany).
The pubs signed up for the tax free day are those that see the changes happening in the Irish pub and embrace them. They’re welcoming of the new trend towards craft beer, and peoples involvement in knowing more about what they drink, which is leading to more adult behaviour and attitudes towards alcohol. So too are they embracing dining and good food selections as a core part of the service they offer.
Ireland is moving and on its way (albeit admittedly slowly) towards a more European culture of food and drinks. So, the question must be asked, why is the taxation policy on this sector of the economy, which has such potential, so punitive?
Find more info at http://www.supportyourlocal.ie