Thursday, 16 April 2009
A recent article I linked to claimed that, following the smoking ban, pub owners had invested huge sums of money in providing outdoor facilities for smokers. However, around my local pubs I really don’t see that. Obviously a lot of pubs are effectively landlocked and have little scope to do anything even if they wanted to, but many that do have the outside space to provide substantial covered areas haven't bothered to do much at all. There’s one, for example, with an open drinking area at the front and a large garden at the back that provides nothing but a titchy lean-to in a yard next to the toilets, devoid of any seating.
There are two pubs I can think of in Stockport – the Royal Oak in Edgeley and the Adswood Hotel – which do strike me as having particularly good outdoor facilities for smokers, but after that I’m scratching my head. If I was a smoker who still wanted to go to pubs I would be looking for ones where I could sit down in a covered area where I wouldn’t get wet even if the rain blew in a bit – and there are precious few that meet that description.
If we are to assume the current arrangements have some permanence, surely they change the dynamics of how pubs function that had been built up over decades. If you were designing a new pub from scratch now, you would look at shifting the balance between “inside” and “outside” areas by having extensive awnings around the sides of the building, and possibly even having an area with removable wall panels, which could be used as a legal smoking area when the weather was reasonable, but be converted to “indoors” in the winter.
But who would be prepared to bet a large investment on the current régime remaining unchanged, as the odds must be that, seeing the continued prevalence of smoking, the banners will press for yet more restrictions on outdoor smoking on licensed premises? We have already seen them moaning about smokers using beer gardens.