Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Dutch ban for small pubs lifted again (what happened to Scotland?)

Dutch small bars are celebrating the lifting of a smoking ban that was first imposed in 2008. The ban still applies to any outlet that employs staff, but any enterprise in the hospitality sector without staff is free to allow smoking.

Since the ban was ostensibly imposed on the grounds of protecting staff, one-man operators fought it on the grounds that they had no staff needing protection. Partial success in the courts last year led to a temporary lifting of the ban on such operations, but these judgements were overturned and the ban became general once again, but it has never been effectively enforced. This week's change has come from a new Dutch government – only just formed several weeks after the general election on 9 June.

Dutch bar owners, apart from not enforcing the ban, have also made their feelings known in other ways. They are well organised, and in a sensible way: i.e. the small bars have banded together as they have had a specific campaign regarding the smoking ban.

What has happened in Scotland and the UK? Dominated by chains and breweries, the fight for licensees since the ban struck their pockets has focussed on tied licences and (happily for the government) supermarket prices. It is never easy to get the powers that be to admit that the licensed trade, rendered unfit for purpose to up to half its customers by the smoking ban, has suffered thereby. And since some venues have stood to gain at the expense of their smaller neighbours, the trade has itself been divided.

In reports on the recent study that demonstrated the damage done by the smoking ban (in Scotland as well as the rest of the UK) the response from Paul Waterson of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association is lukewarm if not downright disappointing. Here, he says that pubs have been hit by the smoking ban, but not what an absolute travesty the ban is, and he does not recommend a review.

Even before the ban became law, the SLTA's stance was conciliatory rather than defiant. They declared they had compromise proposals on the table. Regrettably this proves to have been too genteel an approach to the enemies that were pushing at the door. What kind of bargaining counter is a 'compromise proposal'? Now that the Scottish Government's anti-smoking agenda has proved anything but genteel, bodies like the Scottish Licensed Trade Association must grow teeth and defend their members' choice of customers be respected. How is it to any licensee's advantage to be forced to put customers outside?

Weil Maessen, who represents the Dutch small bar umbrella organisation KHO, reminds us that the fight is not over until the whole hospitality sector regains choice. Brilliant: not just defiant but intelligent and prepared to deploy strategy and keep fighting!


Anonymous said...

What a refreshing change,a new Government that show some common sense,just shows how far away from reality the UK government really is.


Captain Ranty said...


Good old Weil! I am so pleased for him, and his pals at the KHO.

And for small bar owners! And their customers!!


Smoking Hot said...

Well done that man there!


Mark Wadsworth said...

Top stuff. Let's all move to the Netherlands!!

Eddie Douthwaite said...

When will the Scottish Politicians listen to the evidence that proves there was NEVER a need for a smoking ban in the first place.

Modern Air Filtration systems can deal with the "comfort" factor of Second Hand Smoke and produce an environment where smokers and non-smokers can co-exist.

The "Cherrypicked" studies that were used to support the introduction of the smoking ban have been exposed as clear manipulation to achieve a desired result.

Science by Press Release is no longer an option for the Scottish Government, the public have no faith in the forever ending stream of studies funded by "vested interest" groups and organisations.

Angry Exile said...

Good for the Dutch finally beginning to see sense.

Indyanhat said...

Great news where there is a chink found in their armout you can drive in a sharp pointed object to widen the hole until the whole thing bleeds to death!
EU laws call for harmonisation across the whole EU, time to start a small bar maybe?