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Gary O’Donovan – Managing Director of O’Donovan’s Off Licence Group

Joe O Donovan, the O’Donovans Off Licence Group founder, first started selling wine in the 1960s in one of Corks first supermarkets in the village of Douglas on Cork City’s Southside. As he expanded his business in the 1970’s and saw the ever increasing interest in wine and the home consumption of alcohol, he opened his first off licence in 1980 which was one of the busiest in the country during that decade. Local employment, customer care, local club sponsorship and responsible retailing laid the foundation blocks for future growth.

I left UCC in 1991 and opened our second outlet with Joe in Summerhill North in Cork City later that year. Since then, 14 locations have been added to the original two bringing the O’Donovans Off Licence brand to most areas of Cork City and County. My brother and sister, Ken and Liz are also directors in the company and my mother, Rita, still retains a key interest in the business as Joe unfortunately passed away a number of years ago.

Everywhere we have opened stores we employ locally, use local tradesmen sourcing their product from local suppliers, support Irish importers and agents, interface with local/national companies for our beer, wines, spirits, soft drinks, tobacco and more importantly have always paid our taxes locally. Cork City and county is where we call home and where we conduct our business!

The reality of the drinks industry in Ireland is that we have an elephant in the room regarding certain retailers, since the groceries order was repealed in 2006. These companies have endeavoured to retail in an unacceptable way i.e. flooding the market with cheap below cost products in an attempt to lure customers through their doors! This ugly and damaging method of aggressive retailing using alcohol as a battering ram should never have been allowed!

This unfair spectre has led to activity which undermines every other operator in the Irish drinks industry and threatens everyone’s future! This is unfair and unjust and I call on the current government to take their finger out and make a reality of the new alcohol bill before it’s too late. Add to this five years of austerity which has swallowed up most of people’s disposable income and is killing retail generally. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the current coalition; “NO MORE AUSTERITY” as people and businesses generally are at breaking point!

I would also call on the government to reverse the recent draconian measures on persistently increasing excise duty and VAT making our products and pricing look out of kilter with reality more than ever before. Foreign suppliers are horrified when they see our excise duty rates at these levels and compare us with a banana republic rather than an actual republic! This outrageously high level of duty is costing sales, business and jobs and must be reduced in the next budget.

It is time that the government supported local business as opposed to battering it into oblivion and take positive steps in ensuring fair play and conduct and encourage responsible trading all round when it comes to alcohol retailing! As an independent off licence group, by law, we must retail responsibly. It’s time someone in government in Ireland governed responsibly when it comes to cheap alcohol and incessant duty increases!

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