Gillian Merron has certainly put her foot in it. I was in a meeting yesterday morning when someone arrived hot foot from the meeting in which the public health minister declared: “The pub trade does have challenges ... but it isn’t the case that the [smoking] ban has led to pub closures.”
According to Merron, the ban has been a “tremendous success” with a 95 per cent compliance rate and the support of 80 per cent of the public. (The Publican has the story HERE.)
Now, I can understand why the government might think that the ban has been a great "success" (see above), but to suggest that the ban is not responsible for any pub closures is unbelievable. I would have far more respect for her if she said, "We accept that the smoking ban has resulted in some pub closures but we believe that this is a small price to pay for the sake of the nation's health." Or words to that effect.
It would at least have a ring of truth to it. Instead, like so many politicians, she tries to brazen it out and ends up, well, lying.
Describing Merron's statement as "slightly laughable", licensee Mark Daniels has this to say:
Of course, the smoking ban isn't the only reason pubs are closing at the moment ... But the smoking ban has certainly caused most pubs, especially those that were traditional drinking outlets (like mine, for example), a lot of pain - and it has caused a lot to close, too.
To say it hasn't is, frankly, ridiculous and shows a severe lack of knowledge of the problems the pub trade is facing right now.
I can't speak for every pub, but I'll use mine as an example: before July 2007 my pub had a steady, successful trade. Figures fluctuated, but not wildly, and even in the depths of winter and the heaviest rain we knew we would have customers through the door.
These days we experience more of a 'tourism trade', which can only be attributed to the smoking ban. In the depths of winter the place will be empty, we'll struggle to make our numbers work and we have to severely reduce staff. If it's pouring with rain when we open the doors I can guarantee nobody will walk through the door.
Give them a modicum of sunshine, however, and the smokers pour out to bask in the sunshine and enjoy a long-awaited freshly drawn pint. Our figures soar and we have good days. Sadly, there are more rainy days than sunny ...
Full article HERE.
The missing interview with Lincoln MP Gillian Merron (The Linc)
Progress on alcohol labelling 'disappointing' (BBC News)
Public health marketing campaigns will not be cut, says minister (Marketing Week)
By coincidence, I hope to be in Lincoln (Gillian Merron's constituency) next week when I will be visiting Emma Chapman, licensee and sole proprietor of The Jolly Brewer. Emma is a supporter of our campaign to amend the smoking ban and last year she devoted a day of her annual music festival to promote this and other similar initiatives. Why would she (and other publicans) do that if the ban had been such a great "success"?
See also: Time called on city pub. According to the Lincolnshire Echo, "The credit crunch, cheap booze in supermarkets and the smoking ban have been all cited as causes of several pub closures in Lincoln in recent years."
PS. Gillian Merron has a majority of 4,613 ...
11.20 ... Listening to a programme on Radio 4 called Last Orders. It's about the demise of the local pub. References to smoking ban, nanny state etc around 20 minutes in.
Landlord: "People aren't coming because of the smoking ban."
Landlady: "Final nail in the coffin, if you'll pardon the expression."
Two more soundbites:
Pubs closing at a rate of seven per day. And it is predicted that if closures continue at that rate the door will be closed on the last pub in the UK by 2028.
H/T Jacqui Delbaere