Cork city faces a wave of small business closures as energy bills spiral out of control. Photo: Tim Mossholder

‘I fear for my industry’

A perfect storm of soaring energy bills, Brexit, staff shortages, and the coming winter will see a wave of small businesses close their doors in Cork city very soon.

That’s according to Cork Business Association (CBA) Director Claire Nash who founded her restaurant Nash 19 on Princes Street in 1992 and says she has never faced more challenging times in almost 30 years.

“We're heading into a bleak enough winter now and we are going to have a drop off in tourism, so demand in our industry is going to drop significantly. I'd say we're all in for a bloody rude awakening. I really fear for my industry.”

Her comments come as energy bills continue to rise across the country, with some small businesses seeing their energy costs increase by more than 200%.

Ms Nash told the Cork Independent that she is missing more than 60 ingredients in her kitchen due to supply shortages.

She also said a chicken supplier that she knows has seen their energy bills go from €39,000 to €120,000 “overnight”.

She is now struggling to fully open all sections of her restaurant due to staff shortages, which is having a direct impact on her intake.

She said, not only are staff difficult to come by now, but they will also require higher wages in order to cope with the rising cost of living.

“There’s no relief at the minute. This is out of control now and I just don’t know if the Government can help us,” said Ms Nash.

She continued: “I don’t know how we’re going to keep going or who’s going to replace us. Those that aren’t worried, I think are oblivious.”

On 1 October, 4 days after budget day, Airtricity plans to raise unit prices in Ireland by 45.2% for electricity and by 46.3% for gas.

Cork Socialist Party TD Mick Barry is calling on people to take to the streets of Cork on 17 September in “water charges-style protests”.

It is estimated that the hikes will increase electricity and gas bills by more than €1,000 a year for Airtricity customers, with other energy suppliers expected to announce similar price hikes in the weeks to come.

In a statement to the newspaper, Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber, said climate crisis and impacts on energy prices from the war in Ukraine have highlighted the vulnerability of Ireland’s energy systems.

He explained: “These impacts are already being felt in our business community and SMEs are particularly at risk as energy prices continue to rise. Our members are clear that Government will need to support our business community as they face this deepening and significant challenge.”

He continued: “Cork should be designated as a hub for renewable energy to receive targeted investment, incentives and tax breaks to build out supporting infrastructure. There is no shortage of resources from wind to hydrogen and biomethane. It is essential though that a holistic view of our energy systems be taken ensuring energy system integration.”