Smoking ban sparks rethink for pub companies over food

Pub companies may ditch their food operations in a bid to avoid the Government’s proposed ban on smoking in public places in England, plans for which were announced in last month’s Queen’s Speech.

Under the new legislation, pubs that do not serve food will be able to allow smoking; pubs that currently serve food will be able to stop doing so in order to keep customers who smoke. The Government estimates that about 30 per cent of bars will allow smoking after the laws are implemented in 2008.

Mark Hastings of the British Beer and Pub Association says pubs will be faced with “Hobson’s choice” once the ban comes into effect and could well give up their food operations to avoid having to implement a smoking ban.

He says: “For a third of pubs, serving food is a ‘nice to have’ part of the business rather than a ‘must have’.”

A spokesman for one pub chain, who asked not be named, says that the nature of the ban means that operators will look at dropping their food operations to keep their regulars who smoke.

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