Tyrone the North’s booze capital?

Local bars boost Tyrone economy by �19m
Local bars boost Tyrone economy by �19m

Hen and stag parties, take note, South Tyrone might be one of the best places for a pub crawl in the North.

According to the latest figures, the South Tyrone and Fermanagh constituency has the second highest number of drinking establishments and breweries in Northern Ireland at 129, narrowly behind South Down’s 131.

When combined with the figures for West Tyrone, which has 124 pubs, the area has the highest concentration of pubs in Northern Ireland.

South Antrim and the Lagan Valley are the driest with just 30 and 34 watering holes respectively.

The figures also reveal the economic boost provided by the local pub trade with bars in the local constituency employing directly or indirectly 980 people, and generating a total £9.9m in revenue, with the total economic output estimated at £18.9m.

However, the average bar in South Tyrone and Fermanagh pays out almost £35,000 in wages, one of the lowest levels in the UK, with staff earning on average just under £7,000 per annum.

The figures were released by the British Beer and Pub Association, which said the totals show the industry’s vital role in the economy, a point which is backed up by pub managers.

The traditional Irish pub is part of the identity of many villages and rural communities, and there are good historic reasons why parts of Tyrone appear to have more than their fair share of drinking establishments.

Old licensing laws permitted public houses to open all day on market days in villages such as Ballygawley and Aughnacloy, which had fair days every month, thus attracting more pubs to open.

At one point in the early 1900s, Ballygawley had a dozen watering holes, all of them relying on the influx of thirsty farmers from the Clogher Valley hinterland on market day.