The man running Sligo’s oldest pub has said vintners should consider switching to local breweries following Heineken’s latest price hike, due to come into effect on December 1st.
Paul O’Donnell from Thomas Connolly’s has removed a number of Heineken draught products, such as Island’s Edge, Coors, Moretti and Orchard Thieves, giving the extra counter space to the local White Hag and Lough Gill breweries.
“I think it’s time for more publicans and pub goers to support our local craft beer breweries. There’s one or more in every big town in the country,” he said.
The publican said the Heineken announcement was a blow. “With only a few weeks to Christmas and with the size of this increase, it’s hard to imagine a more damaging decision to the pub trade”.
O’Donnell said the 17 cent per pint increase “before taxes” for pubs will translate into a 50 cent hike for drinkers once VAT and the publican’s margin is taken into account. He said he will increase the price of a pint of Heineken by 50 cent “and it will be up to the customer to decide” whether it’s worth it.
“I do think this new incoming increase from Heineken is a step too far and Heineken as a company have priced themselves out of the Irish pub market,” he said. O’Donnell said there were reports of several publicans turning off their Heineken taps. “And rightly so,” he said.
O’Donnell has had “one or two customers not happy” about the removal of some Heineken products but said the overall feedback was positive. “Most customers are on our side,” he said.
The bar trade may be reeling from the impact of lockdown and recent of cost of living increases but O’Donnell said that having survived the Sligo cholera epidemic of 1832 and two world wars, he believes his historic premises will weather this storm.
“There has been a pub here since 1780 so I am confident we will get through this crisis,” he said.
He is worried by suggestions that Guinness owner Diageo will increase prices in 2023. “That is only six weeks away. We don’t if it will be in January or February but usually prices go up before St Patrick’s weekend,” he said.
O’Donnell, whose electricity bill has risen by 300 per cent, has recently been forced to restrict his opening hours due to staffing issues. But he said the premises, which once hosted Charles Stewart Parnell, will bounce back.
“We have been opening at 4pm from Monday to Thursday but with the World Cup starting we will be back to 1pm opening next week,” he said.
O’Donnell said that many familiar faces did not return after lockdown. “I am not sure if it is anxiety about Covid or if it is that things are a bit tighter now,” he said. “We are all in the same boat..”