Thursday, 16 April 2009

Gimme shelter


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.

9 comments:

  1. I have decided not to invest in any smoking shelter. Partly because the value of smokers to my business is small due a largely healthy customer base. The other reason is that the government will indeed change the rules soon.

    A friend who has a pub built a new shelter before the ban was passed into law. At the last moment the rule was gilded with the 50% enclosed clause. His new investment worth nothing as it had 3 sides.

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  2. Precisely why this government cannot be trusted. The 2005 manifesto left the choice up to working mens clubs to decide their own policy. A WMC in the Midlands spent thousands on a state-of-the-art ventilation system as their membership thought they were being ahead of the game by deciding their policy early.

    Labour changed their plans and, as a subsequent case over the Lisbon treaty has ruled, manifestos can't be used as a basis for legal course of redress for their outlay.

    Best just get this lot out. Seriously, they couldn't give two figs if all pubs closed down tomorrow.

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  3. You might be interested in this article about Manchester shelters, Curmudgeon. Closer to your neck of the woods than mine.

    Some look quite dandy.

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  4. Yes, I quite like the look of the balcony at the Knott Bar.

    But what's this, some anonymous commentator says: "We could do with some outdoor non-smoking areas now. If we do get a summer, it means you can't eat or drink outside without getting lungfulls of smoke."

    What did I tell you?

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  5. You weren't wrong, Curmudgeon.

    And if you haven't got a shelter, you might have to buy a licence to allow people to do what is not illegal.

    Save the pubs? I don't see any collective will so far.

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  6. The Crown in Stockport is OK apart from some freakishly weird blue fairy lights.

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  7. Yes, I was in the Crown last night and it does have a fairly extensive tented area at the back, plus a number of tables out in the open. The whole area still seems a bit shambolic, though.

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  8. This is more of an issue of the changing use of pubs. Restaurants slowly moved from smoking to none smoking, without government interference, for the simple reason that’s what customers wanted. A food led, family friendly pub is in fact a pub themed restaurant and not really a pub. It would be no surprise to me so see these places ban smoking inside and out if the bulk of their trade is young families, ankle biters running around and cheap meals. It’s also not the kind of place most drinkers really want to frequent, the presence of screaming children is never a convivial environment to enjoy a pint.

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  9. I spotted last night that the Arden Arms had erected a very comfortable and commodious smoking shelter on part of the former yard. I think it will slowly come, as the better-run, more forward-looking pubs realise that they need to cater for all their customers. But this is likely to be in a way that annoys the banners, so there is always the risk of further legal restrictions.

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