The experience of the Wetherspoon pub chain indicates that there could be some short-term belt tightening for pubs when the smoking ban comes into force next year. But the company is of the opinion that the longer-term benefits will be worth suffering for.
Wetherspoon has been operating a no smoking policy at the bar in all of its pubs for some time and has opened 92 specialist no-smoking pubs. It has seen a drop in sales and profits in those pubs as a result of this action but is still upbeat about the future.
Wetherpoon presents a good barometer for the industry as a whole. It is well ahead of the game with 14% of its properties already experiencing the effects of a no-smoking policy. It hasn’t been great so far but the organisation may find itself in a happy position next year having made a gradual transition to a smoke free environment whereas others will have it imposed on them rather more quickly.
Views are divided on the likely impact of the coming ban. Some see it as an opportunity other see it as a threat. There is a widely-held view that following the ban (and a spring clean) pubs will offer a more welcoming option for a significant number of people who have previously avoided them simply because of the smoke and the bad smell that always seems to follow you home and wake up with you the next morning.
Local publican and erstwhile winner of Sussex Pub of the Year, Jim McRobert welcomes the smoking ban with open arms, "I believe it will be good for business because we will sell more meals and as a result more wine and after-dinner liqueurs," says Jim.
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