They’re not kilts, they’re aprons

Scotland is now one year into it’s nation-wide smoking ban, something that I could see Robert the Bruce agreeing to but never William Wallace.

Personally, I’m a lifelong non-smoker. In my youth I considered the economies and relative “coolness” of smoking vs. driving and decided to use that money to put gas in my car. Furthermore, the last few years I haven’t gone to many bars, but when I did I preferred to go to ones that had no-smoking sections. Nevertheless, I enjoyed going to Keegan’s (pre-Minneapolis ban) for Trivia Night even though I knew I’d come home reeking of smoke. It was a trade-off I was willing to make for the socializing. I draw the line at socialism, however, and other people telling a private business how it ought to operate through laws rather than the marketplace. That’s not because the marketplace is any kinder or gentler than the government, but it is a lot more grounded in reality. Not that the marketplace can’t be a cruel master, but at least its focus is on finding ways to entice me to give it money voluntarily while the government is dedicated to finding ways to take more money, preferably while giving me as little say in the process as possible.

Anyway, because of a news thread I’ve been following on a business matter I occasionally come across news stories about the effects of the smoking ban in Scotland (unrelated to my original news search). An article in today’s The Publican, a UK pub-trade publication, takes a look at the results of the past year. It notes that many pubs have been hurt and are even going out of business since the ban went into effect, but that this may not be tied solely to the ban, and that other pubs have not been as affected.

One year on: the Scottish smoking ban
22 March, 2007

Licensees there have faced the new laws with varying success, Roy Beers investigates

Three-hundred-and-sixty-five days into the smoking ban, pubs north of the border are experiencing mixed fortunes.

The ban in Scotland has hit some pubs and clubs even harder than trade pessimists expected, according to the country’s biggest licensee organisation. However, on-trade multiple operators, for example Mitchells & Butlers and Belhaven (now part of Greene King), have reported only minor damage to their Scottish pubs’ drinks sales.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association’s (SLTA) chief executive, Paul Waterson, says independent commissioned research showed overall pub turnover slumped 11 per cent last year, a more serious decline than the organisation’s own original estimate of seven per cent.

He told The Publican a combination of the ban and discount beer offers in supermarkets was driving many pubs to the wall.

He has warned publicans in England that even some of those pubs that “do everything possible” ­- for example enhance food business and provide smoking areas -­ are still certain to lose trade.

In Scotland traditional wet-led community pubs are said to have been hardest hit, along with community-based social clubs. Bingo halls have suffered a wave of closures. Scotland’s growing pub leasing sector is also said to be under particular pressure.

Making the lease unworkable

James Hickman, lessee of Scottish & Newcastle Pub Enterprises (S&NPE) McEwans Ale House, in the Newington area of Edinburgh, said last week that the ban had been “the major factor in making the lease unworkable” ­ as he prepared to wind up his business with major debts. “Besides the ban driving people away, you see people passing all the time with carryouts from cheap supermarket deals -­ they’re the students who would be our customers, but who can now drink cheaply as well as smoke freely in their flats,” he added.

S&NPE operations and sales director for Scotland, Ken McGown, said: “In addition to the impact of the smoking ban, for which we have sympathy with the lessee, there were a number of other factors which ultimately led to him deciding to move on.”

Loyal customers

“Some (S&NPE) pubs you would imagine would suffer have actually borne up due to a loyal customer base, and pubs with good food offers are reporting a positive response to the smoking ban,” said McGown.

In Fife, some community-based registered social clubs have shut, while others have seen annual takings ­ and charity donations slashed. Davie Nelson of the Coal Industry Social Work Organisation in Glenrothes, said:

“We’re losing £1,000 per week, and two other clubs have closed ­- some pubs are in trouble too. Local charities will be getting only around half the usual amounts because of the ban ­ and a local wheelchair users’ club has been forced to close for lack of money.” In addition to falling sales, licensees around the country have been dogged by complaints about noise and litter created by outdoor smokers: a North-East councillor last year tried unsuccessfully to ban smoking at outdoor tables.

“We were promised a massive influx of customers when smoking was banned -­ and it simply hasn’t happened.”

Read the whole thing.

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