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« Brighton 2005 - Forest's greatest hit? | Main | Holyrood's smoking conference »

Forest event under threat

Back in February Brian Monteith and I visited The Secret Garden, a fantastic smoker-friendly location at Hawke and Hunter in the centre of Edinburgh. We liked it so much we vowed to come back and hire it for a Forest event. (I also wrote about it HERE.)

A few weeks ago we provisionally booked The Secret Garden for a drinks party to mark the publication of Brian's new book, The Bully State: The End of Tolerance. This week, when I was in Edinburgh, I had a meeting to finalise details - but I could tell immediately that something wasn't quite right.

Eventually, the truth came out. The Secret Garden is no longer the smokers' paradise we thought it was. This is what allegedly happened: a couple of weeks ago a local councillor was having a drink in The Secret Garden. He could have chosen the cocktail bar, or the whisky room or even the restaurant but, no, he chose the smoker-friendly Secret Garden. The three canvas awnings that provide shelter from wind and rain were pulled across and, shock, horror, people were actually smoking! As a result, he alerted the council's inspectors.

I am told that Hawke and Hunter have now received two visits from council officials and they have been informed that - unless the awnings are fully retracted so that customers are fully exposed to the elements - The Secret Garden constitutes an enclosed public space and smoking is not permitted.

To put this in perspective, even with the awnings fully extended no-one can be in any doubt that they are outside the building. (When I was there on Thursday it was quite windy; the wind was gusting in between the three sets of awnings and it was quite chilly.) Even with the awnings fully extended it is impossible to imagine that The Secret Garden could ever be a smoky environment because there are far too many places where the smoke can escape.

Unfortunately it seems that the proprietors have taken fright. (I don't blame them. Understandably, they don't want to be fined or lose their licence.) Given the weather at this time of year, the result is that The Secret Garden is effectively a no-smoking zone. Instead, a small smoking area has been created in the basement area at the front of the building. There are no tables or chairs, only two or three wooden beer barrels and a handful of ashtrays. A warm, comfortable outside area it ain't.

I am still waiting to hear if our event can go ahead. I am told that the proprietors are talking to the local council to clarify the situation but I fear the worst. Frankly, if guests cannot smoke in The Secret Garden (as they have been allowed to for ten months with no complaints from customers or staff) then our event is off - while we look for another venue.

Hunter and Hawke will lose a booking that could be worth £1000. As an upmarket bar restaurant they can afford to wave goodbye to our money. A great many pubs and clubs are not so lucky. Thanks to the fanaticism with which the smoking ban is being enforced - even in outside areas like The Secret Garden - more and more revenue will be lost to the hospitality industry.

As Brian says in his book: we are no longer living in a nanny state. We are being governed by a bully state that has lost all sense of proportion.

PS. Invitations to the book launch are on hold until we can confirm the venue. If you live in Edinburgh watch this space.

Reader Comments (30)

Do you have a contact address for the councillor who reported this in the first place?

What a mean minded tw*t

September 26, 2009 at 14:21 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Sadly a story becoming all too common these days.

September 26, 2009 at 15:02 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Yes, I'd like his contact details, too.

He's hardly in a position to plead a case for anonymity, after all.

I look forward to being able to give him a hearty slap on the back for his diligence and heroic far-sightedness.

Well - a slap, anyway.

Truly, A Man Of Our Time................

September 26, 2009 at 15:11 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

And another thing:

There was a lovely 'Punch' carton in the mid-Eighties:

A man, dressed in the black Puritan garb of the 17th century (complete with ridiculous hat), stands on the front doorstep, surveying the world outside - his little wife standing dutifully a few paces behind.

He then remarks to wifey:

"It's nice out, today. Let's go and stop somebody doing something."

Wish I had it now................

September 26, 2009 at 15:37 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

A local councillor .
No, a member of the local STAZI.
What a, "creepy little man", yuk.
Did he leave a slug trail on the way out ?
And has he been billed for cleaning the slug trail he left behind him on the way out ?
To seat in an establishment and then slap the hospitality back in the face like that shows a distinct personallity disorder.
What makes a person all bitter and twisted like that.


September 26, 2009 at 16:12 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

It never occured to me...I hope the landlord bans him and any others of his ilk!

Lets just see how he likes being ostracised from social society.

I just wonder how many pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants have refused hospitality to meaningless paper pushers?

September 26, 2009 at 16:34 | Unregistered CommenterChris

This episode is a sign of our times. People are just too meek and accept any old diktat from some jumped up local councillor. This person needs to be named and shamed and voted out at the next local elections.

If the owners of the Hawke and Hunter had any balls, they would put up a poster of this miserable twat to show smokers that he is the one responsible for the further downgrading of their outdoor smoking facilities. In addition, this councillor should be banned from stepping across the threshold in future.

September 26, 2009 at 17:36 | Unregistered CommenterBill

This is yet another example of the petty vindictiveness to which this miserable country had descended. The rule seems to be that smokers must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to enjoy their habit. I stayed in a beautiful four star hotel in my favourite Devon resort recently. Full of magnificent and olde world lounges, any one of which could have been set aside for smokers. But no, the only place to smoke was outside on a pathetic and miserable bench. It cost over £200 a night to stay there (B and B for two) but if you smoked you did so in discomfort. The one pleasure was that the weather was heavenly. The downside was helping a 96 year old smoker to the miserable bench. I weep at such treatment of our citizens and get very angry at a government that interfered where it should never have tread. I often wonder if they realise just how much rage they have generated with the worst piece of legislation ever enacted. Grumpybutterfly

September 26, 2009 at 18:19 | Unregistered CommenterGrumpybutterfly

I think we are witnessing a modern manifestation of the age-old battle in which the 'rulers of darkness' hijack good causes and worthy and gullible people who support them, not to bring life, fun and happiness to people but to bully them and to bring persecution and worse to those whose birthright is to look for enjoyment of life, growth in love and friendship and freedom. Virtuous causes are fertile ground for the devil but his strength is also his weakness. He can't laugh. If the word 'devil' is strong meat to some, substitute for it the zeitgeist. My hero, C.S. Lewis, said so much that is relevant to all this. Oh, and re 'powers of darkness' see Ephesians 6.12. Our default mode should be to enjoy the life we are given, not at best, to endure it while the modern puritans derive their sustenance from the negative 'joy' of saying 'thou shalt not.'

September 26, 2009 at 20:27 | Unregistered CommenterNorman

"....Being a curious person, I wanted to find out why the smoking room was kept in such poor condition. I walked out of the room, and found an airport caretaker, to whom I complained. The older black man told me: "Do not complain to me about it, sir! The room was put up after many complaints from smokers and foreign airlines, but I was told not to maintain it because the people should see the filth smokers create. If you have a problem, call the Management".

"Gathering some courage, I asked the man: "Don't you think that America has found its 21st-century niggers?" The old man sadly smiled, and moved away without a word."

The words above were written by Gian Turci in 2001 following his flight home to Genoa from North America. It seems appropriate to repeat them here given the current British policy to make smokers as uncomfortable as possible.

September 26, 2009 at 21:43 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse


One has to think of the WORDS that one is using to describe the situation.

I looked at the link that you provided in your post to the Secret Garden - it looks very pretty, but the picture is too localised to give an overall view of the garden.

The site, which is an advert for the Secret Garden, says that there are 'canopies'. By that, I assume that they mean 'roofs' - even if these 'roofs' are made of some sort of cloth.

The law is that, if there is a 'roof', and even if it is retractable (in the nature of what I would call 'an awning'), it is considered to be a PERMANENT roof. In that case, one can only have 'sides' (which you describe as 'awnings', but I assume that what you really mean is something in the nature of 'curtains'. I also assume that these 'curtains' can be 'drawn' as required, depending upon the direction of the wind and rain) which are no more than 50% of the sides of the area underneath the roof. In other words, if you take a 'box' with a top, then you can only have two 'sides' on your box.

The regulations to the Health Act state precisely what I have said above. I do not know of anything in the regulations that stop one having 'curtains' which can be adjusted so as not to enclose more that 50% of the area.

It may be that this councillor just happened to turn up at the Hawke and Hunter when someone had drawn a curtain which caused the area to become more than 50% enclosed. His/her appearance at that particular time may or may not have been accidental. It does not matter.

What is REALLY important is that the publican should have the law clarified as to whether or not 'curtains' are OK, provided that the curtains do not enclose more that 50% of the area under the canopy.

There are another couple of interesting ideas which come to mind which could be used to circumvent this idiotic law.

1. Imagine that you have a 'roof' which is 10 meters long and 5 meters wide, As far as I can see, you could legally enclose, on THREE sides, HALF of the area under the roof.

2. It is possible to use NETS as sides on a structure. Nets are very good at stopping wind blowing through the structure that they enclose. This is due to the PHYSICS of air pressure inside the volume enclosed by the nets as opposed to the pressure outside the nets - it is easier for wind to go around the nets than to go through them.

It seems very odd to me that in the whole of the UK, no one has used their imagination to circumvent these stupid laws.

September 27, 2009 at 2:24 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

"We are the Little Folk – we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you'll see
How we can drag down the Great!
We are the worm in the wood!
We are the rot in the root!
We are the germ in the blood!
We are the thorn in the foot!

Mistletoe killing an oak –
Rats gnawing cables in two –
Moths making holes in a cloak –
How they must love what they do!
Yes – and we Little Folk too,
We are as busy as they –
Working our works out of view –
Watch, and you'll see it some day!"

Rudyard Kipling - 'A Pict Song' (excerpt)

September 27, 2009 at 6:46 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

How very happy this small mean minded man must be, the council jobs worth.
He will probably get a promotion and a rise.
When I was forced to wheel my mum (82 years old, days from death) out of the hospital in winter to smoke a legal product, I realised then there was no mercy or dignity allowed for smokers.
I despise the law makers of this country and I will vote for anyone who will change this.

September 27, 2009 at 10:15 | Unregistered CommenterMary smoker

"It seems very odd to me that in the whole of the UK, no one has used their imagination to circumvent these stupid laws."

No, Junican -

But we have a legion of 'imaginative' people to INVENT them !

Question Number One:

What, pray, IS the precise SCIENCE (supposedly) behind this preposterous set of regulations on 'smoking shelters', anyway ?

Naturally, I use the word 'science' loosely.

Question Number Two:

Since a majority of the Tories voted against the ban - having been exposed to ALL the 'arguments' in favour - why, LOGICALLY, would they now be in favour of retaining it ?

One suspects, of course, that the answer to both questions is a matter of POLITICS, rather than of SCIENCE or LOGIC.

Or, to put it another way:

In the first case - INTIMIDATION.

In the second case - COWARDICE.

Now prove me wrong, somebody.........

September 27, 2009 at 10:54 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

The reason this disasterous ban has not been repealed or at the very least ammended is our Parliament is now a sham, the real power is elsewhere now ..
Mordor probably.

September 27, 2009 at 11:10 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

"Mordor probably................."

Don't, worry, Specky - I have complete trust in Frodo Cameron.

He'll know what to do - provided he doesn't try the Ring on for size first.

And with Osborne the White at his side..........

September 27, 2009 at 12:26 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Anyway if you want some respite from this bullying try this.

September 27, 2009 at 13:39 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

That scottish numbscull local councillor should be fired for not knowing the rules of his job.
The awning on The Secret Garden pub was perfectly legal if it had just 3 sides.
The law says that a smoking area should have 4 walls and no roof or 2 walls with a roof and it was the pub Manager's business to know this.
Just goes to show the cowering acceptance of the bully state by the very people whose livelihood depends on knowing the score on restrictions and who should have told that scumbag councillor to bugger off and threaten to report him to his boss for not knowing the correct rules he's imposing.
I'm afraid this is the sad saga of the mentality of the 2lst century mind set.
Abide by the rules without question to the extent of shooting yourself in the foot.
It was refreshing to see last week while on hol in Corfu a sign without the bar down the middle, signalling that smoking was allowed indoors in certain pubs in the town, and this in a country where the smoking ban came into operation last July.
At least one culture still has the balls to give the bullies the finger!
I hope that stupid manager had the wit to open out the awning after the pea brained councillor left the premises.
What sort of a job is that for a man to have, going around checking on shelters.
He should be ashamed of himself taking a wage for such a demeaning jobsworth.
He'd be better employed shovelling shit.
Maybe this is the new idea of 'going forward'.
God help us all, is what I say.

September 27, 2009 at 15:30 | Unregistered Commenterann

"Maybe this is the new idea of 'going forward'.2

We like to call it 'Progressive Politics', Ann.

That way, anyone who's against it is a REACTIONARY GIT - and deserves to be gassed.

I THINK I'm on the Gestapo list.

Not quite sure - since their website was down yesterday. Never mind.

I just hope I don't have to pay..........

September 27, 2009 at 18:25 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Martin v

Re science of shelters.

There isn't any. Just a simple vindictive action which did not need to be debated in Parliament neatly added on to the broken manifesto pledge.

No way will Labour ever get my vote again.

September 27, 2009 at 20:12 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

They'll never get my vote again either Junican, nor the vote of many ex-labour supporters that I know because of the blanket ban.

All they had to do was introduce choice - simple.

I will never forgive them for this ban or forget either. You can't treat millions of citizens in that way and incite hatred against them without receiving repercussions.

If they want to listen to the health zealots rather than the electorate, then so be it. It isn't the health zealots that keep them in their jobs though.

We all get one vote at the GE, and they cannot rig that like they do with their consultations and the media.

September 27, 2009 at 22:33 | Unregistered CommenterMary


I'm a bit confused. Do you know something that I don't? Have you some photos that show that the Secret Garden was only using a 'canopy' (roof) and two sides? I find it really, really hard to believe that, if that were so, the councillor complained. Are you sure of your facts?

I like the idea that, in Corfu, they have the 'no smoking' red circle without the bar across the middle to indicate that smoking is allowed. Just goes to show that not all governments are nutters. It is probably true that individual regions have some autonomy, but I do not know. Is it worth finding out?

September 28, 2009 at 3:30 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Just hope I live long enough through all this Darkness to see a pub re-named (in the 're-branding' spirit of our age) 'The Happy Smoker'.

That'd be nice.................

September 28, 2009 at 6:36 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Junican, as far as I know the general rule in Greece is that if an area is less than 70sq mtrs they can declare themselves smoking or non smoking and they can apply for a smoking or non smoking sign and display it accordingly. In areas over 70sq mtrs if they want a smoking area they have to separate it from the non smoking area, however as the weather is so good this is inconsequential. What I did notice in the restaurant/bars I was in is that not one person was sitting in the non smoking area. Which was surprising as a lot of Irish, English and American tourists are anti smoking.
As regards the awning in the Secret Garden Pub, I am not sure of my facts I was only going on Simon's description of it and assumed it had a roof and 2 sides, but on rereading his account, it looks like it was just 3 roof awnings placed side by side, which according to the rules, that councillor was wrong in demanding to have them retracted.

September 28, 2009 at 8:20 | Unregistered Commenterann

It might help people to know the following:

The back basement of what used to be The Hallion private members' club has ALWAYS allowed smoking since the ban was introduced. It has entertained many politicians and the media at receptions of QUANGOs and the like since the ban was introduced.

It could do this, I was assured, because it did NOT break the law - apparently at least 50% of its perimeter walls were outside the property and it's land (the title deeds had been checked - it therefore did not have such walls, they were walls of adjacent buildings). The retractable roof was therefore irrelevant. Legal opinion had been sought and the owners were confident enough to "carry on smoking" despite the ban.

The Hallion was sold over two years ago and then sold again to become the Hawke & Hunter. It would appear that the institutional memory has departed with the sale and the new owners are being bullied into submission.

It would have made an interesting test case - but I fear that now there will now be no covered smoking area in Edinburgh, ala Boisdales, and all because a mean-spirited councillor put his or her jackboots on.

September 28, 2009 at 11:04 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Monteith

I have just returned from a holiday in Majorca and for once had a really relaxing time. This was partly due to the fact that when we arrived at Bristol airport and duly had a smoke outside in the designated area prior to checking in our bags there was a notice stating that there is now a smoking area available beyond the security point. Hallelujah! Finally an airport that has woken up to the fact that many people who fly are smokers and some of those smokers get very tetchy if their flight is delayed and they cannot have a smoke!

We checked in our cases and, for a change, went directly through security. We had a little trouble locating the smoking area so returned to the security point and asked. We were directed to its vicinity but also told that it was not open every day! You can imagine our reaction, I am sure! Well we found it and it was open, thankfully.

Yes, it is open to the air and the area of overhanging roof outside the door is designated as a No Smoking Area, although I am sure people will congregate there should it rain. The fencing was high enough to provide shelter from the wind and it was, for an outside smoking area, done quite nicely with benches to sit on and small trees and shrubs planted.

Last year we were both impressed and relieved to find that Palma airport had created a smoking area beyond security - mainly because Palma is such a huge airport they could not cope with people waiting until the last minute to go through security. This area, however,is a glass room with some poor excuse for air conditioning/ventilation that obviously is not being used to its maximum benefit and even hardened smokers walk in and say they probably don't need a smoke as they have had a good taste of it just by walking through the door.

On balance and bearing in mind it was not raining, the area at Bristol was far more pleasant, but any port in a storm is a relief!

So, if you need to fly and Bristol is within striking distance for you, I would recomend it, if nothing else but to show support for such insight and sensible actions.

September 28, 2009 at 12:56 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

Just to add, whilst on one of our trips to the smoking area at Bristol airport, airside, we met a couple and got talking. It turned out that the lady, in her 40's or 50's, had never smoked until the smoking ban came in. Once this ridiculous ban came into force she found herself sitting alone most of the time in venues she visited whilst everyone else was outside smoking, have a laugh and good chat, so she decided to join them and in doing so tried smoking. She is still smoking and has now realised what she has been missing all these years.

September 28, 2009 at 13:15 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

All I want is this guy's name. Anyone? I'd like a direct dialogue with this puritanical, Nazi, turd. Mano e mano I believe is the phrase. I ain't gone long to go'd be doing me a favour.......


September 28, 2009 at 16:42 | Unregistered CommenterMax D

God bewith the days when that scumbag councillor and his ilk would be dragged down a dark alley and given a 'warning'.

September 29, 2009 at 8:32 | Unregistered Commenterann

I told you so Simon!

I too want this wankers name, "his name will also go in the book..."

October 6, 2009 at 7:36 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph K

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