Gordon Brown banned from pubs in two North Yorkshire towns.
By Ewan Turney
Pubs have been closing at the rate of 27 a week – nearly four every day – over the past year as the savage impact of the smoking ban and spiralling costs combined to decimate the very heart of British life.
Many communities will now be left without a pub unless the Government acts now – starting with a duty freeze on beer – the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has warned.
The stark figures from the BBPA reveal the pub closure rate is seven times faster than in 2006 and 14 times faster than in 2005.
In total, 1,409 pubs closed in 2007 – a sharp acceleration when compared to 216 closures in 2006 and 102 in 2005.
“Britain’s pubs are grappling with spiralling costs, sinking sales, fragile consumer confidence and the impact of the smoking ban,” said BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward.
“These figures show the stark reality of the pub trade today, in contrast to the hype surrounding the myth of ‘24-hour drinking’ and extended pub opening hours.
“Pub closures at this rate are threatening an important hub of our social fabric and community history. What we need to stop the decline is support from Government and the general public.”
Urban pubs – many wet-led and landlocked – have been hit the hardest with 2% of all urban pubs closing in the last six months.
Plummeting beer sales
Beer sales have slumped to their lowest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s with 14m fewer pints being sold today than in 1979.
Total alcohol sales in pubs have plummeted by around 6% in the last 12 months and even a surge in food sales has not relieved the pressure as the additional associated costs of selling food have squeezed profit margins.
“Some commentators would have us believe that the pub trade has faced a bonanza following the introduction of the Licensing Act in 2005,” said Hayward.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. The industry is facing very difficult trading conditions, which is resulting in the closure of hundred of pubs across the country.
“This is no time to place further regulatory or tax pressures on a great national and community asset.
“A vital part of the British economy and social life is under the most severe strain it has faced for decades.
“Increasing these pressure and costs will only result in the loss of more of Britain’s much loved community pubs.”
Pubcos must play their part
Opinion with Ewan Turney, web editor
“One key factor is conspicuous by the very nature of its absence from the BBPA’s explanation of the record number of closures – the pubcos.
If the body which represents this sector is admitting the smoking ban and rising costs are taking a huge toll on the industry then so must the individual pubcos.
Let us hope this is a wake-up call to Westminster to freeze duty on beer, to increase rate relief for pubs and to lay off yet more layers of red tape.
But Government is a slow moving machine and the tide seems to be fast hurtling in the opposite direction with yet more tough new proposals to curb binge drinking put forward in the Licesning Act review just yesterday.
Alcohol disorder zones are also on the way and certain police forces seem hell-bent on a polluter pays scheme and blanket glass ban.
The budget is on 12 March and it would be great to think the Government would heed this wake-up call and freeze duty on beer.
But when one side is arguing for a 10% hike and the other a freeze – is the best we can hope for a small increase?
When newspapers and TV documentaries are full of tales of binge drinking and underage drinking, it would be a brave Government that does not at least opt for the standard 1p on a pint duty rise.
So, instead we must help ourselves as an industry if the immediate future of the pub is to be saved.
The smoking ban, spiralling costs, poor summer weather, floods and the consumer slowdown are all factors that a tenant or lessee can not control.
Greene King, often praised in these pages for its tenant support structures, made a move in the right direction last week by announcing it would absorb a 20% hike in insurance premiums and delay a beer price rise until May.
But clearly more needs to be done.
Struggling tenants and lessees are crying out for rent concessions and reviews which take into account the true nature of the changing trading environment.
Goldman Sachs estimates the average tenant’s profits are down 10% since the smoke ban and yet that same average tenant will be hit with a 2.5% RPI rent increase every year.
Where are they supposed to find that money?
Interest among MPs in the pubco-tenant relationship is rising once more and Lib Dem MP Tim Farron has already tabled an EDM calling for “the Government to prevent the exploitation of pub landlords and to help save the great British pub”.
If we wait for Government to act to save our pubs, it may be too late.
Action, in the form of greater tenant support, is required now.”
Help us build a detailed picture of the state of the industry.
After the smoking ban, Britain smoulders on
“Eight months on from a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places and resentment among British smokers -? whether of the finest Cubans or the cheapest cigarettes – cannot be stubbed out,” writes Ronan Thomas on Forest’s Free Society blog.
“The many arguments will burn on slowly. Despite the ban, smoking itself is not going to be extinguished in the UK any time soon. Instead, litter from discarded stubs on the street will increase. Cigar and cigarette smoking will gain more of a social cachet in a new ‘counter-culture’ of freedom. Bloody-minded British smokers will seek ever more ingenious ways to evade the rules.
“Smoking may be down in the UK but it is definitely not out.”
Full article here:? www.thefreesociety.org
Smoking ban has ‘devastated licensed trade’
February 27, 2008
By Peter Magill
HEALTH Secretary Alan Johnson has denied claims – made by publicans and regulars at a Bacup pub – that the smoking ban has devastated the licensed trade in East Lancashire.
Rossendale MP Janet Anderson recently presented a petition to Parliament, backed by 93 customers at The Swan Hotel, in Market Street.
Locals said that the cigarettes purge had seen at least a third of the regular customers drift away from the Bacup alehouse.
The petition’s backers – including smokers and non-smokers – claimed “the social atmosphere within the pub has drastically diminished”.
Drinkers were “finding the ban has served no purpose whatsoever other than to nibble away at the social cohesion that has taken many years to evolve.”
Mrs Anderson said the petition requested the House of Commons to introduce fresh legislation to allow the landlord of the Swan Hotel to put up a sign depicting it as a “smoking establishment, giving customers the right to choose whether to enter or not”.
But health supremo Mr Johnson says the ban, introduced last July across England, has been “highly successful” and lauded by the health profession and beyond.
Mr Johnson added: “We have seen no significant evidence to suggest that smoke-free legislation either in this country, or in others where similar legislation has been in place for some years, will create any long-term economic problems for pubs or for the hospitality trade in general.”
He has also told drinks industry magazine The Morning Advertiser that the smoke ban should not be blamed for an increase in the number of pub closures.
Mr Johnson added: “Evidence in fact suggests that it is likely to be prevailing economic, structural and cultural issues, rather than the introduction of smoke-free legislation, which will be primary cause of any significant decline in the pub sector.”
Ministers will be presented with the results of a full review of the smoking ban – and its perceived impacts – in July 2010.
Taxman kills himself ‘over smoking ban’
April 12th, 2008
“A taxman killed himself after the smoking ban left him a virtual recluse, an inquest heard yesterday.
Lawrence Walker, 61, barely went out when cigs were barred from his local pub.
Friend Robert Lye said: “He felt insulted to have to stand outside and smoke.
“We think the ban killed him. He was so depressed about it he hardly went out.? It made him very solitary.”
Mr. Walker, of St Columb, Cornwall, leapt to his death from cliffs at Porth beach, Newquay, in June. Coroner Dr Andrew Cox recorded a verdict of suicide.
Man kills himself “after taking smoking wonder drug”
December 2, 2007
By Edward Chadwic
THE family of a man who killed himself after he began taking a wonder drug designed to help smokers quit cigarettes say users should be aware of its suicide risk.
Omer Jama hoped Champix tablets were the miracle cure that would end his 15-year addiction to smoking – but his family are certain that they led him to take his own life.
Just four weeks after he began a course of pills to help kick his 20-a-day habit, the 39-year-old was found dead with his wrists slashed at his Bolton home.
The death of the popular television editor at his home in Redcar Road, Smithills, on October 25 came just four days after he was pictured smiling with his newborn niece.
He had booked a holiday to Cuba with a friend just days previously to celebrate is 40th birthday and the keen amateur golfer was still on a high after winning a trophy.
More than 200 people gathered to remember Mr Jama at an event at Old Links Golf Club following his death.
His heartbroken brother, Ali Jama, said that Omer had split from his wife earlier this year but the pair remained on good terms and a reconciliation was not out of the question.
“They just weren’t the actions of a man who was contemplating suicide,” said Mr Jama, aged 41, of London.
“He’s got no history of depression and was never the sort of person you would see feeling sorry for himself.
“There was a brand new travel guide for Cuba at the side of his bed and he had everything to live for.
“I spoke to him two days before his body was found and he was laughing and joking about me coming to cover for him at work while he was away.”
Mr Jama, who works for Sky, the same company which employed his brother, said he had not been aware of the drug’s side effects until he read reports in the press about complaints to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
“At the time that this happened somebody mentioned the side effects of the drug but I wasn’t aware of it being linked to depression or suicidal thoughts,” said Mr Jama.
“Since then there has been a lot of press about it and the partner of Omer’s best friend suffered from very bad mood swings while she was taking the drug.”
Mr Jama said he felt health authorities ought to make users more aware and hoped the MHRA would investigate the worrying number of complaints.
“The more I read about this drug, the more it concerns me that it’s being made quite freely available to anybody who wants it,” he added.
Gary Tonge, who had planned to visit Cuba with Mr Jama, a lifelong friend, earlier this month, said he believed immediately that the tablets might have triggered the suicide because his girlfriend had suffered irrational behaviour for four weeks while she took a course of Champix.
“One minute she would be crying her eyes out and the next minute she would be very aggressive so I took the tablets off her and she was back to normal within a week,” said Mr Tonge, also 39.
“I asked Omer if he was okay and he said the tablets were making him feel a bit spaced out but he was determined to give up smoking.
“I’ve known him since he was 11 and this was completely out of character.
“Drugs take a long time to test and develop but these seem to have been licensed very quickly to coincide with the start of the smoking ban in this country.”
Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer launched the drug, which costs ?163.80 for a 12-week course, earlier this year.
Up to 200,000 people have taken the twice-a-day tablets in the UK after it was hailed at the most effective weapon in the fight to give up smoking.
It was revealed last week that the MHRA has received 839 reports of adverse reactions.
Forty-six were linked to depression, with 16 claiming to have suffered suicidal thoughts – although no suicides had been reported.
An MHRA spokesman said the drug was now being closely monitored – with doctors warned to keep an eye on patients.
The US Food and Drug Administration has also launched a probe.
Champix works on brain receptors to relieve cravings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Makers Pfizer said their sympathies were with Mr Jama’s family – but stressed there was no scientific evidence linking the drug with suicidal behaviour.
A spokesman said: “Quitting smoking, with or without treatment, is associated with nicotine withdrawal symptoms and has also been associated with the exacerbation of underlying psychiatric illness.”
Regent Inns Profit Falls 71% After Ban on Pub Smoking
February 5, 2008
By Amy Wilson
Regent Inns Plc, the U.K. owner of the Walkabout pub chain, said first-half profit fell 71 percent after an English ban on smoking in bars and pressure on incomes hurt spending.
Net income dropped to 599,000 pounds ($1.2 million), or 0.5 penny a share, in the 26 weeks ended Dec. 29 from 2.06 million pounds, or 1.8 pence, a year earlier, the London-based company said today in a statement. Sales rose 4.2 percent to 76 million pounds and fell 3.8 percent at outlets open at least a year.
Fewer people are drinking in pubs because smoking has been banned and higher mortgage, tax, utility and food bills have cut the amount left over to spend. Competition has stiffened because of new laws that let bars stay open later. That prompted Regent, which may receive a takeover offer, to say in December it was “no longer confident” of boosting this fiscal year’s profit.
Same-outlet sales kept falling last month, the company said today, adding that the smoking ban’s effect should ease as weather improves in the summer. Regent, which owns the Old Orleans restaurant chain and Jongleurs comedy clubs, also said it may sell unbranded pubs and use the proceeds to repay debt.
Regent fell 1.75 pence, or 9.1 percent, to 17.5 pence. The stock has dropped 15 percent in 2008 after losing four-fifths of its value over the prior two years. Shares of rival pub owners Punch Taverns Plc, Enterprise Inns Plc and J.D. Wetherspoon Plc also declined today.
The smoking ban and weaker spending are weighing on sales at pub owners from Punch, the country’s biggest by outlets, to Fuller Smith & Turner Plc, which was started in 1845. Punch offered yesterday to buy Mitchells & Butlers Plc, the owner of O’Neill’s and Nicholson’s pubs, to more than double its revenue.
Regent’s interest payments rose 20 percent to 3 million pounds in the half after borrowings increased in connection with the 26 million-pound purchase of Old Orleans in the prior fiscal year’s first half. The pub owner also said it may sell some properties it owns and lease them back.
The company owns property worth about 25 million pounds, Chairman Bob Ivell said today in a telephone interview. Regent leases about 90 percent of its pubs, he said.
Regent, which was the subject of an unsuccessful bid proposal in 2006, did not name any of its suitors on unveiling the latest takeover approach on Jan. 15. Ivell said there are “several” interested parties, though he declined to identify them or to say whether they are rival pub operators.
Current investors include Bestinver Gestion, the asset manager owned by Madrid-based construction company Acciona SA, which holds a 17 percent stake, data compiled by Bloomberg shows.
The pub owner opted against paying a dividend in respect of the first half. Investors last received a payout in April 2004, Bloomberg data shows.
To contact the reporter on this story: Amy Wilson in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bingo slump forces cinema closure
1 February 2008
A decline in bingo because of the smoking ban has been blamed for the final curtain falling on the last remaining cinema on Anglesey.
The Empire cinema originally opened in 1920, as one of three picture houses in the town.
Owner Gareth Jones said he was “sad and disappointed” at having to sell the building, forced by the closure of his bingo hall on the ground floor.
Film fans now face a 40 mile (64km) trip to a cinema at Llandudno Junction.
Around 60 people watched the last showings of St Trinian’s and Alien vs Predator.
Film programmer Steve Reynolds, who looks after hundreds of similar small cinemas across the UK, said it was a shock when he heard it had to close.
“We only heard in the first week in January that the cinema would have to close,” said Mr Reynolds.
“It is a great shame for the island but also for the summer tourism market as there are very few entertainment venues on the island,” he added.
Ironically, it was a lack of full houses at the bingo, not cinema, which sealed the Empire’s fate.
The bingo hall on the cinema’s ground floor recently closed because of a slump, forcing the owner to sell up.
Mr Jones blamed the smoking ban, introduced in Wales last April.
“The downturn in customers in bingo halls is not a local thing,” he said.
“Our profit went down 30% after the smoking ban came in, so that contributed towards it.”
A report by analysts Mintel on Friday warned that the smoking ban is hitting bingo, with some 200 halls at risk of closure.
Admissions are set to drop by 8%, it warns.
Cinema customers shared Mr Jones’ disappointment.
Twelve-year-old Josh Higgins said he found the closure “upsetting”.
“There is nowhere else to go, we come here nearly every week.”
Hannah Jones from Holyhead, said: “I come here often and I don’t think it’s a good idea to close the place.”
Her friend Sophie Jones from Valley added: “It’s the only cinema on the island and on Monday and Thursday it only costs ?2.50 – what can that buy you, a drink maybe.”
Ashley Wills, 13, added: “It will be hard because there’s not other cinema in Holyhead.”
Projectionist Merfyn Eccleston has worked at the Empire since 1981.
“I think it is sad for the town that this place is closing,” he said.
‘Part of the furniture’
“I used to go to the matinees when I was young. It used to be known as the coldest cinema in town.”
Mr Eccleston said he remembered classics The Sound of Music and Gone With The Wind – films he now had on DVD at home.
Films arrived at the cinema on five or six reels, he said, and it was his job to put them together for showing.
“It used to be very stressful if something went wrong, but it rarely happens now because the film is much better quality,” he added.
Victor Thomas said, between taking tickets and helping people to their seats, that his first job after leaving school was as a projectionist at the town’s Cybi cinema.
“It’s terrible this place is closing, especially for local children as a lot of families can’t afford to go to Llandudno to see a film,” he said.
Glynn Cook worked part-time at the cinema.
“I juggled my shifts at my other jobs to make sure I could be here,” he said.
Jean Owen, 63, described herself as “part of the furniture” at the Empire having worked there on-an-off for many years, recently as manageress for the past nine years.
Mrs Owen said the Empire was a family cinema, where everyone worked together, and she was “gutted and shocked”.
“I’ll miss talking to customers, some of them have been coming here for years.
“We know most of the customers by name,” she added.
Smoking ban raid on shisha pipes
BBC News – UK
Shisha is an Arabic water-pipe in which fruit-scented tobacco is burnt and inhaled through a hose – now illegal under the smoking ban. …
Smoking ban slashes pub trade
Diss Mercury – Diss,England,UK
Two south Norfolk publicans may consider closing their pubs because the smoking ban has slashed trade. Steve Green, landlord at the Dickleburgh Crown, …
Dry-cleaners say smoking ban stinks
Guardian Unlimited – UK
The smoking ban and consumer gloom was today blamed by the owners of Britain’s biggest dry-cleaning business for a slowdown in trading. …
Ban makes landlords fume in bad weather
Spenborough Guardian – UK
By Adam Wolstenholme THE smoking ban is beginning to take its toll on the pub trade in Spen, landlords have claimed. The foul weather this winter has …
Schmidt faces charges for defying smoking ban
Independent – London,England,UK
However, full enforcement of Hamburg’s smoking ban is not due to start until February, so the Schmidts were not expected to be fined a statutory €100 (?74) …
PM barred by Yorkshire pubs
11 January, 2008
By Thom Gibbs
Gordon Brown banned from pubs in two North Yorkshire towns
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been banned from 105 pubs in North Yorkshire. A Pubwatch initiative in the area has barred Brown for six months in response to the smoking ban.
STAND (Stopping Trouble And Night-Time Disorder) represents pubs in the towns of Skipton and Craven, and licensees agreed to the unique protest after a meeting. The group claims the smoking ban has caused “disruption and discomfort for customers”.
Chairman of STAND John Garton believes that struggling to survive or going under after the ban was too alarming to ignore. “The members of STAND feel that the damage being done to trade and our businesses is unacceptable and the smoking ban goes against the spirit of free enterprise,” he said.
“We want a debate to open to look at alternatives to the ban and in view of the discomfort and disruption to our customers we are placing Gordon Brown MP on a STAND ban for six months.”
‘100S’ FLOUT SMOKE BAN
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09:00 – 05 January 2008
More than 100 pubs, clubs, restaurants and individuals have been accused of breaching the smoking ban inNotts.
No one has been fined or prosecuted but at least 50 written warnings and two informal letters have been sent.
Councils say they have dealt with 135 tip-offs since the ban came into effect last July.
Lighting up in pubs prompted the biggest number of complaints but a builder was also rapped for smoking in his van.
Fifty-three complaints were made in Nottingham, resulting in 16 written warnings.
Officials say they are pleased that most premises and smokers are abiding by the ban.
James Thomas, the city’s tobacco control alliance co-ordinator, said: “We are satisfied with the way that the smoke-free legislation has been introduced in Nottingham. The majority of local residents wanted this law introduced and it seems to have been positively received by smokers and non-smokers alike.”
One pub being investigated is the Charlton Arms in Chilwell for allegedly allowing smoking on Christmas Day.
Broxtowe Borough Council said it was taking the allegation seriously.
The pub says the matter was a misunderstanding.
SMOKER BAN PLAN IS AXED
BY CATHY BUSS
10:30 – 10 January 2008
Health bosses have scrapped plans to ban smokers from operations until they quit the habit.
Instead, they will leave it to doctors to advise patients about the potential risks.
The decision has been welcomed by clinicians who say they are delighted that health bosses are “taking a common sense approach” and leaving them to make individual decisions.
In May last year, Leicester City Primary Care Trust discussed putting routine operations on hold while patients were helped to stop smoking.
If patients managed to go without a cigarette for four weeks they would then be put back on the operating list.
Now bosses say it was never intended as a policy and was one of a number of ideas discussed and which has now been ditched.
They say any decision about giving the go-ahead for operations will now remain with the patients’ doctors.
In a statement a PCT spokesman said: “We are not considering a ban on operations for smokers and have no plans to do so for the foreseeable future.
“In spring 2007 it was one of a number of ideas discussed as to how we might improve the health of our community.
“However, we considered this decision should remain with clinicians and agreed not to take it any further.”
Dr Alan Cole, a consultant anaesthetist and medical director at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “I am encouraged that the PCT is taking a common-sense approach – clinical decisions are best made by the doctors involved.
“It is always better for a patient not to smoke before an operation as they are far more likely to suffer complications.
“I have never refused a patient an operation because they are a smoker although there are cases where, because of their condition, the risks of operating outweigh the benefits.”
Louise Ross, manager of the city Stop! Smoking service, said: “We are getting people wanting help to stop smoking before operations and would encourage anyone due to undergo surgery to try and quit.”
Bosses previously denied the plan would lead to a blanket ban on smokers having operations.
They said clinical evidence showed people who smoked took longer to recover from operations and were more susceptible to infections.
Introduction of the ban was backed by the trust’s professional executive committee.
In August the trust said the next step would be consultation on the proposal.
At the time Tim Rideout, PCT chief executive, said: “There is very strong clinical evidence that patients who smoke are at much greater risk of being affected by an operation.
“We are here to help people give up. We also have a duty to improve people’s health.”
Pub landlord flouts smoking ban
January 9, 2008
A pub landlord in West Yorkshire is openly flouting the smoking ban because he says it goes against his customers’ “human rights”.
Stuart Smith is allowing customers to smoke inside the Golden Fleece pub in Greetland, Halifax.
Mr Smith said the ban, which was enforced in enclosed public places from July, 2007, has had a detrimental effect on his business.
But since allowing customers to light up, he said trade had improved.
Mr Smith said: “I think it is against people’s human rights not to be able to smoke like this.
“People should be allowed to smoke here. I see people outside shivering to death and I don’t think it’s right.”
The landlord said he was prepared to take his fight to court if he was prosecuted.
Steve Wood, health and safety manager for Leeds City Council, said there had been about 6,000 check visits made to public places since the ban was enforced and these were continuing.
He said anyone wanting to report a breach in the ban should contact the council.
Gala Coral hit by smoking ban
Financial Times – London,England,UK
By Roger Blitz, Leisure Industries Correspondent Gala Coral grew full-year pre-tax profits by 10.6 per cent, but warned the smoking ban and the removal of …
Dreyfus blazes at smoking ban
30 Nov 2007
CIGGIE-loving Gimme, Gimme, Gimme star James Dreyfus has launched a stinging attack on the government’s smoking ban.
The actor, 39, said defiantly: “I’m smoking a lot more because of the ban; it hasn’t put me off at all.
“I won’t be pushed into a corner by this government. It may tell you to smoke outside but I won’t stop.
“Nasty little pictures on cigarette packets won’t stop me either.
“The only thing that will make me stop is ill health. They’ll be banning booze in pubs next!”
James, who also starred in The Thin Blue Line and My Hero, is back on TV this Christmas in ITV1 comedy drama Double Time.
In it he plays the dual role of a master criminal and a struggling actor who plays him in a Crimewatch reconstruction.? http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/article529082.ece
Fire still burning in belly and ashtray of smoke-ban battler
Scotland on Sunday – Edinburgh,Scotland,UK
It is, therefore, the most natural place in the world for someone to take a stand against the smoking ban. Hugh Howitt, a Glaswegian known to all as Hamish, …
Minister behind the smoking ban is driven from her office – by all …
This is London – London,England,UK
The architect of England’s smoking ban has become a victim of her own legislation – driven out of her Commons office by smokers lighting up outside her …
Pub smoking ban ‘could spark fires’
Yorkshire Evening Post – Leeds,Yorkshire,UK
By Sophie Haydock FIRE experts fear that the pub smoking ban could cause a surge of home deaths. It is known that since the smoking ban came into effect on …