If you thought the worst was over for the British pub trade, that we had gone through a necessary period of “right-sizing” and could now look forward to a successful future, then think again. As Pete Robinson points out here, the experience of Ireland following their smoking ban suggests there is still an awful lot of pain to come. He predicted that, over five years, the ban would lead to a loss of 25% of the pub stock, and that looks as though it is coming true.
Yes, the pub trade in England and Wales is not exactly the same as that in Ireland, but even so the indications are that the 4,500 pubs already lost will be at least doubled over the next three years. It is very obvious that there are plenty of pubs that are still open but are doing a very thin trade and hanging on by their fingertips. Even on Friday nights you can now find near-empty pubs that once were full. As one comment says:
I remember having to push hard on the doors just to get into pubs when unemployment reached just over three million (over 10% of the population). Something tells me that finding somewhere to sit in pubs won’t be a problem in the current period of unemployment.And it’s not even as if the ban has led to a reduction in smoking rates, with the proportion of smokers in Ireland rising from 27% to 33%. What a spectacular own goal for public health policy! It seems that smoking bans are far better at closing pubs than stopping people smoking.