The President of the Vintners Federation of Ireland Gerry Mellett has called for a minimum price to be set on alcohol sales.

Gerry Mellett said that this is the only way pubs will survive competition from supermarket sales of alcohol.

He said that the removal of restrictions on below-cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets is 'breaking the back' of the pub industry.

At the moment he says pubs cannot compete with the low prices charged by supermarkets who, he claims, use alcohol to attract customers to buy groceries as well.

Mr Mellett says publicans are under severe pressure with turnover down between 20% and 40% and says many more will close if something is not done.

Gerry Mellett also said that the imposition of the smoking ban has also been contributing to what he called the death of the Irish pub.

The Revenue Commissioners have released figures showing that the number of pub licences in Ireland over the past five years has fallen by 1,300.

Last night, it was announced that up to 85 jobs are expected to be lost with the closure of Galway city pubs: Cuba bar and nightclub, The Cellar Bar and the Harvest Off-Licence are to close because of falling sales.

A Department of Enterprise spokesperson later said the move to introduce a minimum price on alcohol could give rise to legal issues under competition legislation. These issues, he said, would have to be considered by the Competition Authority.