‘In the end it boiled down to money’

LIFFORD Old Courthouse is among more than 30 hospitality outlets in Donegal not to renew its liquor licence.

Figures from Revenue reveal that 332 establishments in the county renewed their annual licence in September, down from with 367 last year.

Donegal’s 9.5 per-cent non-renewal rate is the worst of any county in the Republic, followed by Offaly at seven per-cent.


Gillian Graham is general manager of Lifford Old Courthouse. She said the decision not to renew was taken amid uncertainty over when they will be able to sell alcohol again.

“We decided that at the minute there was no point,” said Gillian.

“We had two licences, one a song and music licence which allowed us to hold concerts and the other a restaurant licence.

“One of those can be renewed online but the other has to be renewed in court and comes with a solicitor’s fee of €600. In the end it boiled down to money.”

Lifford Old Courthouse has long been a popular visitor attraction but in more recent years it has begun to stage concerts and movie nights in conjunction with the nearby cinema.

Plans were in place for social events throughout October, November and December but had to be cancelled.

“In terms of the licences, the amounts we are talking are not huge, they wouldn’t have made or broke us. But everything is so unknown and we don’t know when we will be able to serve alcohol again.”

Chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, Padraig Cribben, said Donegal’s non-renewal rate was almost triple the national average.

“A loss in cross border trade as a result of Covid restrictions was a probable factor, he added.

“I am surprised at the particularly high number in Donegal, nearly one in ten, as it is not something we are seeing in the rest of the country,” said Mr Cribben.

“In fact the national average is about one third of that. But tourism has been significantly impacted by the pandemic and in Donegal, like other places, the hospitality industry relies heavily on tourists. And a lot of

Donegal’s tourism comes from across the border and I am wondering if that had an impact we have not seen elsewhere.”


Gillian Graham said though she was surprised that the number of non-renewals in Donegal was not higher, given the tough restrictions the county has been under.

“At the time the licences were due to be renewed Donegal was still under level three restrictions. So I am surprised that so many premises like ourselves did renew.”

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