Some telling words here from William Lees-Jones of Middleton family brewer J W Lees:
Lees-Jones said that the company had been “in the trenches” since the smoking ban. He said the firm had initially adopted a “very defensive” approach, protecting its core wet-led trade by building smoking shelters.Surely, looking at it the other way, that means wet sales have declined from 85% to 57%, not good news if you run a brewery. This is yet more evidence of how the smoking ban has killed the traditional drink and chat community pub.
“It has been a waste of time, if I’m honest. That part of our trade changed forever.”
“Where we have seen success, it has been with food and families”.
Food sales throughout its 30-strong managed-pub estate have increased from about 15% to 43% since the smoking ban was brought in”.
Lees may succeed in opening a few trendy café-bars, but how does a café-bar benefit from being owned by a family brewer dating back 185 years? As I reported here, the future of the pub is seen as “food, families, females and fortysomethings”. No fags, though, at least those sold in packs of twenty. Which, for all too many long-standing pub customers, spells “f-off home”.
And a smoking shelter, however commodious and well-intentioned, can never be more than a grudging, third-rate substitute for actually allowing the smokers inside the pub itself.