A group of five rural pubs will receive state funding to become “community centres” under a new pilot scheme.
Inspired by a similar scheme in the UK, ‘Pubs as Community Hubs’ is designed to use pubs during periods of commercial calm in digital hubs, community cinemas, book clubs, art and craft workshops. crafts and community meeting spaces.
Funding of €50,000 has been awarded to the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), which will select five pubs in Cavan, Kerry, Donegal, Clare and Cork as part of the pilot scheme.
The initiative is part of the Ministry of Rural and Community Development’s Our Rural Future plan and Minister Heather Humphreys said it will be expanded if it is successful.
Speaking at The Keeper’s Arms pub in Bawnboy, County Cavan, Ms Humphreys said rural pubs had had a tough few years.
“The local pub is part of the fabric of rural Ireland. Traditionally over the years, this is where people from rural communities have come to meet their friends and neighbors to socialize.
“In recent years our rural pubs have faced challenges and those challenges have been further exacerbated during the pandemic.
“A similar concept is already being rolled out in parts of the UK – it sees pubs being used as digital hubs, community cafes, arts and crafts workshops, libraries and markets for local food producers.
“The possibilities are endless, but the goal is simple: to support our rural pubs so that they can continue to be a focal point in our rural communities where friends and neighbors can gather for a range of services and activities at the ‘to come up.”
Sheila and Bryan McKiernan, owners of The Keeper’s Arms in Bawnboy, said they would use the funding to set up a community cinema in their pub.
“We hope that the cinema will particularly appeal to older people during the day.
“The nearest cinema in Cavan Town is nearly 40km away, so we believe there will be high demand from the local community.
“I’ve spoken to local community organizations who are fully committed to supporting cinema. The general opinion is that the cinema will promote the integration of the local community and help to combat rural isolation.
“Ireland is changing, but thanks to initiatives like this, the pub can still be at the heart of rural communities – sometimes it just takes a little bit of thinking outside the box.”
Irish Winegrowers’ Federation chief executive Padraig Cribben also welcomed the plan.
“The Pub as Community Hub pilot program is a fantastic opportunity to examine how pubs will thrive in rural communities in the future.
“Once completed, these pilot projects will provide a roadmap for our members as they navigate the upcoming challenges and opportunities facing the rural hospitality sector.”