More woe for Norfolk pubs

MARK NICHOLLS Pub landlords across the region are bracing themselves for a bleak new year amid fears their trade is about to be hit by further blows.Many are already counting the cost of the smoking ban which has been in force six months tomorrow, with takings down by as much as 35pc in some cases.

MARK NICHOLLS

Pub landlords across the region are bracing themselves for a bleak new year amid fears their trade is about to be hit by further blows.

Many are already counting the cost of the smoking ban which has been in force six months tomorrow, with takings down by as much as 35pc in some cases.

They fear that when the colder weather of January and February comes, smokers will prefer to drink and smoke at home rather than use outdoor smoking shelters at pubs.


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And publicans now suggest the cheap booze bonanza at supermarkets will deliver a further hammer blow to trade which is already having to contend with the cost of a pint set to rise as the price of malted barley and hops soars.

Nick De'ath, president of Norwich and Norfolk Licensed Victuallers' Association and landlord of the Unthank Arms, Lawyer and Woolpack on Muswell Street in Norwich, said: “It is hard to say what impact the smoking ban has had. I am sure some places have suffered but the time when we'll really know will be in January or February.

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“But the biggest threat in the new year will be from supermarkets selling alcohol at ridiculously low prices. Lager is cheaper than water in some supermarkets at the moment.”

Colin Keatley, landlord of the Fat Cat pub in Norwich, said his trade had dropped by 10pc since the smoking ban was introduced in England on July 1, 2007.

“It is the first time trade has been down in the 17 years I have been here and I've lost several customers as a result of the smoking ban,” he added.

An EDP survey of landlords across the region has found that while some have suffered from the smoking ban, others have attracted additional customers because of the smoke-free atmosphere or because they have shifted their emphasis to food.

Kathy Cane, manager at the King's Head Hotel in Dereham, said the smoking ban had damaged her trade.

“People are not coming in anymore,” she said. “Now they buy a bottle of vodka from the supermarket and drink it at home with their pals and families, where they can also smoke.”

And Peter Mills, from the White Horse pub at Diss, said trade had fallen by £500-£600 a week because of the smoking ban.

But others say trade is stronger, with a new clientele of families and young people attracted to their establishments. Vince Stewart, of The Bull in Bridge Street, Fakenham, said: “From our point of view, the smoking ban has been a positive experience.

“We are a food-driven pub and have found that food sales have gone up.”

Health chiefs are also feeling the impact of the smoking ban, reporting that more people than ever before have used it as an opportunity to kick the habit for good.

Norfolk Primary Care Trust's tobacco control adviser Clive Slater said: “We have seen a large upturn in our number of quitters this year. The national smoking ban has had a bearing on all of this. Smokers have been telling us that the ban was a trigger for them to come to the service for help.”

Councils have adopted an “education rather than enforcement” stance over the ban.

Only Breckland Council has taken legal action - against Martin Turver, landlord of the Dog and Partridge pub, East Wretham, near Thetford. He is to appear before Thetford magistrates on February 18 and is one of only two landlords in England to be accused of infringing the law.

Authorities in Norwich, West Norfolk, North Norfolk and Yarmouth report a high level of

co-operation from pubs.

Ivan Clark, Yarmouth council's smoke-free workplace co-ordinator, said: “Pubs and clubs have gone overboard to comply. Having said that, now the weather has started to turn, there are reports that smoking is taking place where it should not be.”

Illegal modifications to smoking shelters had also crept in, he said, but added the public were policing the situation.

Mr Clark said: “Where they make a complaint, we will follow it up with the landlord and give advice where necessary. We prefer people to comply through education rather than enforcement.”

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