Pubs closing as Irish turn away from alcohol

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Ireland's famous pubs and pints are reeling from their worst year yet, a report published yesterday has found. Against the backdrop of deep recession and rising unemployment, Ireland's per capita alcohol consumption fell by 9.6 per cent in 2009 and is now 21 per cent below an all-time peak in 2001 when Ireland's economy was booming.

"It was the worst year for our industry in living memory," Kieran Tobin, chairman of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, said. Pubs have been closing at the rate of around one a day, and 15,000 jobs had been lost across the sector over the past 18 months.

In volume terms, consumption declined 8.9 per cent in 2009 after a 5.9 per cent drop in 2008, according to the report by Anthony Foley of Dublin City University Business School for DIGI, which represents the on-trade - pubs, hotels, restaurants - and off-licence sector.

"Everything in drinks has two edges," Foley said when asked about the health benefits of the decline in drinking.

"The average has been reduced, but no one would argue all the problems have gone away. What ideally you're looking for is that everybody drinks moderately and the industry sustains itself without any bad press."

Foley's report found prospects remained "very weak" for 2010 when the total volume of alcohol consumed could decline by a further 5 percent.