New businesses rising from the ashes

Six months into the smoking ban in England, EDP reporters assess the impact it is having on the pub trade in the region.

Six months into the smoking ban in England, EDP reporters assess the impact it is having on the pub trade in the region.

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There were fears the smoking ban would kill off the pub trade. With a pint and a fag becoming a thing of the past, there were concerns that the English drinker would change his or her social habits and desert the local.

A survey of landlords by the EDP in the last few days has found examples of that. There are cases of trade being down, drinkers preferring to stay at home or spending more time outside smoking than inside drinking.

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But it's not all doom and gloom. Landlords who have adapted to the ban talk of a new clientele in their pubs, rising food sales, a cleaner and fresher aroma to their hostelry and cases of customers using the ban as a long overdue excuse to kick their own smoking habit.

Few landlords have considered defying the ban, with most adapting their premises to meet the needs of customers, often by building smoking shelters outside or putting heaters on patios to keep smokers warm.

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John Turner, landlord of the Cross Keys Inn in Wymondham, said his pub was one of the first in the area to go non-smoking after reopening earlier this year following a refurbishment.

He said: “We found it brought more people into the pub. We are food-led and found that people who didn't like smoky bars came to us.”

Jonathan Piers-Hall, one of the owners of the Burston Crown, said it was difficult to determine whether the ban had affected trade.

He said: “We have lost a bit, especially on winter nights but, having said that, we don't know how many customers we have gained because of the ban.”

Jacqui Owens, landlady of the Hare and Hounds Hotel, North Brink, Wisbech, said overall the smoking ban had not affected trade, although some of the older customers had decided to stay away in protest.

However, Ossey Vinson, from The Artful Dodger at Elm, had a different view.

“The smoking ban has most certainly had an effect on trade. I would say our lunchtime trade has been wiped out by 75pc. We are managing to hold our own but the older customers are staying away because they don't want to stand outside in the cold.”

For Arthur Rayner, manager of The Greyhound, Swaffham, it has changed the complexion of his pub.

“People just don't come here anymore. It used to be such a bustling place, but since the smoking ban came in we have lost many customers,” he said.

But Jay Thompson, manager of The Black Horse, Thetford, said: “We are pleased with the smoking ban. The pub is much cleaner and the customers seem pleased.

“There is total compliance and we haven't had any unpleasant incidents since the ban came into force in July.”

Samantha Boyne, from The Globe Inn, Wells, is also pleased with the ban: “People say it's a much nicer place to come to and enjoy a meal or a drink. We have kept all our customers and nobody seems to have been affected by the smoking ban.”

Peter Groves, licensee of The Angel at Swanton Morley, said he had lost a few customers and gained a few, while landlady Debbie Ribbands, at The Woolpack in Gaywood Road, King's Lynn, said the ban had hit trade at her pub by 35pc.

“Some of my customers don't like drinking without having a cigarette, and a lot of it is down to the weather. Who wants to be outside in the cold?” she said.

Paul Briggs, of the Vernon Arms at Southrepps, said they now did more food business, with drinks sales about the same as before.

“I think some people who used

to steer clear of pubs because

they were smoky now come in happily,” he said.

“The pub smells nicer and I am happier because it is a healthier environment to be in. The only negative thing it has done is kill the fruit machine trade, which dropped right off overnight because people were smoking their cigarettes outside instead of while they were playing the fruity.”

In Norwich, landlord of the Arti-choke pub Dave Baldry said it had not affected trade but had changed the “social atmosphere” of the pub.

“The evenings become more disjointed with people going outside to smoke. There are some problems policing the outside with the noise; sometimes there seem to be more people outside than inside,” he said.

Philip Burchall, landlord of the Eaton Cottage in Norwich, said trade had not been badly affected by the smoking ban, but pubs would have a better idea at the end of the full 12 months.

“We do have smoking areas at the pub, but I also think some people are changing their habits. Those who used to smoke all the time are now just nipping out once or twice for a cigarette,” he said.

Paul Thomas, of the Swan Inn at Ingham, which proactively brought in an indoor smoking ban in April 2005, said the business had never looked back after their decision.

“It was the best thing we could have done, both then and now,” said Mr Thomas. “We significantly increased our trade straight away and that has continued.”

Brian Dunton, from the Black Swan in North Walsham, said the key for traditional town centre drinking pubs was to be seen to be catering for both non-smokers and smokers.

“We have put up an outdoor shelter with chairs. The pub is slightly quieter, but it is still a busy town pub with the same clientele and the same atmosphere. The only difference is that the pub is cleaner and instead of the nicotine you can notice other smells, some of which are not always very nice.”

At the Wherry Hotel, Bridge Road, Oulton Broad, general manager Roger Cox said: “We're seeing a downturn in people coming out purely for a drink, but our food sales have increased because people are feeling more comfortable eating in a non-smoking atmosphere. I welcome the ban on a personal level and as a manager as it cuts down on the cleaning of the hotel and the costs associated with that.”

Landlady and town mayor Teresa Baggott, from The Red Lion, South Green, Southwold, supports the ban, but said: “When the ban first happened, I did not think it had made a lot of difference, but now we are getting into the winter it is beginning to kick in.”

Landlord Michael Beck, from the Horse and Groom, London Road, Wrentham, said: “It has affected us but not in the way we thought it would. We have picked up more food business and more families are coming in.

“A lot of our regulars are coming around to it. They come in for two hours and only go out for one cigarette, where they used to go out for 10. It will probably help people cut down.”

Landlord Nathan Smith, from the Sunrise Inn, Corton Road, Lowestoft, said there had been an adverse effect with the onset of winter.

But he added: “Although I am a smoker I thought the ban was a good idea and I still do. It just provides a more comfortable atmosphere.

“I have got a young family and I have always enjoyed traditional pubs, but we didn't go because I didn't want the kids breathing in smoke. The ban has made pubs much more accessible to everyone.”

Reporting by Nicki Walker, Mark Nicholls, Elaine Maslin, Chris Bishop, Aura Sabadus, Ed Foss, Chris Hill, Emily Dennis and Celia Wigg.

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