Owing to their significant site development potential, a majority of the 12 Dublin pubs sold in 2020 achieved an oversized sale value, in turn driving up the overall average price.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has hit the pub trade particularly hard, with overall sales volumes down by 75% for the year.

In its Outlook 2021 report, Lisney notes the differences between city centre and suburban businesses: “The three main drivers of turnover in pubs are tourists, nearby workers and nearby residents. For city centre pubs, the first two cohorts have been absent from the market due to travel restrictions and remote working while the resident population in central areas is relatively low.”

Conversely, businesses in the suburbs have benefitted from people being at home more, spending more time and money in their local areas.

Despite the difficulties, a dozen pubs transacted in 2020, and a further seven were marked as sale agreed or had contracts due to close by the end of December.

According to John Ryan of Bagnall Doyle MacMahon, while the number of pubs sold in 2020 was 6 fewer than the year before, the average price increased from €3.25m to €3.8m.

The deep pockets of some of the purchasers also had an impact, for example in the case of Conor Mcregor’s purchase of The Black Forge Inn in Drimnagh, Dublin 12. The MMA fighter went on to heavily invest in a refurbishment of the premises.

The highest value purchase was made by Punch Taverns, which bought The Storehouse bar in Temple Bar for almost €16m – one of the highest pub purchases ever seen in Ireland. Punch Taverns is backed by Alan McIntosh of Emerald.

Dunnes Stores purchased the Magic Carpet pub and grounds in Cornelscourt, Dublin 18, for a reported price of €9m.

Marlet Property Group is thought to have paid around €8m for Ruin Bar on Tara Street, which sits beside Apollo House where Marlet is developing a major office scheme.

A developer also bought the infamous Scruffy Murphy’s off Mount Street, Dublin 2, for an undisclosed sum.

A number of other major sales were agreed during the year, including The Queen’s in Dalkey and The Sackville Lounge on Sackville Place and Madigan’s on Abbey Street Lower – the latter two forming part of a larger property buy.

The Lisney report goes on to state: “In addition to traditional demand, requirements from well-capitalised funds has emerged recently. These funds are targeting the upper-tier of the Dublin city market and have a preference for scale, seeking established pub groups or alternatively, acquiring several high-value premises simultaneously. The recent sale of The Old Storehouse in Temple Bar to one such fund is an example of this demand and we’re aware of other funds actively reviewing Dublin city opportunities.

“While this demand is positive, the sales process was more protracted in 2020, often with closing dates delayed and this could be the case again this year. Furthermore, there were sales that fell through (such as The Concorde on Edenmore Avenue and Becky Morgan’s on Grand Canal Street), likely victims of ill-timing due to Covid.”

CBRE Managing Director Myles Clarke is expecting 2021 to be a busy year for sales in Ireland. “2021 will certainly be a busy year, considering the volume of pent-up demand and the many investment sales campaigns that were put on hold as a result of the pandemic that will now be reignited,” he said.

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