Smoked out into the open

27 July 2006
Smoked out into the open

With the release of the draft smoke-free regulations last week, operators now have a clearer idea of how they can accommodate their smoking customers. Ross Bentley asked a number of hospitality businesses what they have in mind

George and Dragon pub, Quainton, Buckinghamshire
Knowing that a smoking ban was on its way, Darren Curtis, landlord of the George and Dragon in Quainton, Buckinghamshire, made his pub completely non-smoking in January. "We probably lost a few smoking customers but gained a few more because they prefer the atmosphere in here now," he says.

Those who want a cigarette can take advantage of an outside area at the back of the property which Curtis has had "tarted up". He says: "We have a lean-to roof, a pergola, a few hanging flowerpots and some benches, and an infrared heater on the wall that really throws the heat out."

Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, Soho, London The moody, smoky jazz basement is a thing of the past, according to Ray Duhaney, operations director at legendary jazz club Ronnie Scott's. In anticipation of a change in the law, the club became a non-smoking venue when it reopened last month following refurbishment.

"The way forward is non-smoking," Duhaney says. "Even some of the performers, such as Van Morrison, insist we have a no-smoking policy when they play. Too much smoke affects their voices."

Smoking is still allowed in the members' bar upstairs, but the club is planning to develop an adjacent roof terrace over the next few months, so smokers have a place to go when smoking inside is outlawed.

Duhaney says: "We plan to put up some kind of covering to shelter people over the winter months, but will study the consultation document to see what is and what isn't considered an enclosed space before making any firm decisions."

Plateau, Canary Wharf, London Conran restaurant Plateau, on the fourth flour of the Canada Tower building at London's Canary Wharf, will be forced to do away with its cigar lounge when the smoking legislation becomes a reality.

"The whole idea of the law is that people's smoke does not affect others, and our cigar lounge is right next to the private dining room," says general manager Bertrand Pierson.

However, Pierson is unconcerned that the venue will lose customers because of this change, pointing to cities such as New York, where no-smoking laws exist alongside a thriving bar and restaurant scene. "The number of people smoking today is limited and they understand that the law makes sense," he says. "It is up to them to adapt."

The 100 Club, Oxford Street, London Without any outside area to convert for smokers, London's oldest live music venue, the 100 Club, will have no choice but to ban smoking throughout the site, says bar manager Richard Horton.

"The regulations will make us responsible for policing it, so we must get the right no-smoking signs up in the right places, even the toilets, and show that we are making people aware," he says.

He adds: "Unlike a pub, where people are just going for a drink, people come here to see a specific band and are happy to comply with our rules."

But Horton anticipates a problem if customers start congregating in large groups as they nip outside the club for a cigarette.

"Because of concerns about terrorism and public order, the police don't want people gathering in large numbers late at night, especially in the West End," he says. "We may be forced to put in place a ‘no re-entry' policy."

The Buck and Bell, Long Itchington, Warwickshire Owner Nigel Jones is planning to convert an outside patio area for smokers by September. "I don't necessarily think the Government will do things when they say they will, but we are making sure we will be ready in good time," he says.

The pub has two patios at the rear and Jones plans to give one over to smokers by installing a retractable roof and canvas wind screen. "What I've got in mind will be kind of like a posh rollaway tent," he says.

While he won't be drawn on how much this will cost, Jones says he doesn't resent the extra expense of these necessary adjustments. "So long as everyone has to do it, it's fair," he says.

Brace of Pheasants pub, Plush, Dorset Having taken over as landlord only three months ago, Phil Bennett is not rushing to any firm decisions about how his smoking customers will be accommodated when the regulations come into force. "We do have quite a few smokers and I need a bit of time to get a feeling for what would best suit them," he says.

Bennett says that he will allow smoking inside his thatched Dorset pub "right up until the ban", and that he will then most likely deck out a patio area at the back with an overhead canopy and outside heaters.

However, having visited pubs in Ireland after smoking indoors was banned, Bennett was shocked by how dirty and strewn with cigarette butts some of the outside areas became.

He says: "We will regard the smoking area as an extension to the pub and will ensure it stays clean."

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