Smoking Ban Update
The total ban on smoking in Club premises is fast-approaching. The introduction date is 1st July in England; Clubs in Wales will be putting out their cigarettes on the 1st of this month, with the ban coming into force on 2nd April. (The ban does not apply to residential accommodation occupied by Club employees).
A.C.C. Clubs in Scotland have already been living with the ban for some time, and a recent survey of these Clubs shows their experiences reflect those which are generally anticipated to affect Clubs in England and Wales; a reduction in bar turnover of between 10-15%.
The breweries are bracing themselves for the inevitable fall-out from the ban. Scottish and Newcastle U.K. have warned of a £l0 million drop in their operating profit. The Rank Group plc have announced that nine Mecca Bingo Clubs will be closed ahead of the introduction of this summer's ban. The decision was made after evidence from Scotland showed Bingo Clubs have suffered as a result of the smoking ban in Scotland being introduced. 230 Rank employees will be affected.
Some argue that, over time, the ban will allow public houses and Clubs to win back old customers and attract a new clientele. I am not convinced that this will be the case, or if it is, it will be very much in the long term. There is no evidence to suggest that committed non-smoking groups of drinkers, who previously did not go to public houses and Clubs due to being put off by smoke, are now using public houses and Clubs in Scotland.
The reason for this is possibly due to the fact that such consumer groups only ever existed in the imagination of those who fought for the ban to be introduced. Time, of course, will tell, and I will be very happy to be proved wrong.
It is probably correct to say that food-led public houses will largely escape unscathed from the ban. I do not think this will apply to the Private Members' Club sector, although many A.C.C. Member Clubs are well placed to accommodate smokers with outside facilities and a significant number of our Clubs do provide food. This cannot be said of other Clubs belonging to different organisations, many of which are virtually "land-locked" and do not provide food.
The best advice which can currently be given to any Club is to start thinking about providing a suitable outside area to accommodate members and guests who smoke. We have been advising Clubs to do this for some time. For many Clubs, smokers are a high proportion of their membership and an equally high, and even higher, proportion of their income.
If a Club is able to provide comfortable outside facilities for smokers then it is likely to retain most of its current patronage and may, in fact, increase custom from other establishments which have no such facilities. This scenario can, of course, work the other way!
The Health Act 2006 permits smoking to take place in facilities that are largely open to the air, to the extent that they do not fall within the meaning under the Act of being "substantially enclosed". The Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006, made on 13th December, provide the meaning of "substantially enclosed" premises.
"Premises are deemed substantially enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof, but there is an opening in walls, or an aggregate area of openings in the walls, which is less than half of the area of the walls, including other structures that serve the purpose of walls and constitute the perimeter of the premises.
"In determining the area of an opening (or an aggregate area of openings) no account is to be taken of openings in which there are doors, windows or other fittings that can be opened or shut.
"A roof includes any fixed or moveable structure or device which is capable of covering all, or part of the premises as a roof, including for example, a canvas awning:"
In other words, a structure with a roof and at least three open sides would be acceptable. This is sometimes referred to an the '50% Rule'.
Many companies have sprung up to provide awnings and canopies to meet this new demand However, this is not a case of buying a bit of garden furniture It is an important investment which needs to be considered In many cases, planning permission may be required.
The A.C.C. recommends the services of (Smoking Canopies Tel. No: 0870 803 0515) who have a proven track record of providing sound advice to Clubs and quality products.
I am concerned that individual Local Authorities will attempt to interpret the Act and Regulations in their own individual ways. We already have some evidence of this happening. Both the A.C.C. and other Club Organisations think this is unfair and confusing. The so-called 'level playing field' which brought Clubs within the scope of the ban must now also be applied to the ban's implementation.
In my capacity as Chairman of CORCA I wrote in February of this year to Caroline Flint, M.P. the Health Minister, and I print below an extract of the points I raised.
When I receive a reply I shall be happy to print it!
"The Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006, made on 13th December, provide the meaning of, substantially enclosed premises. It is already very clear, however, that this meaning is not provided in sufficient detail to fit practical purposes. The meaning provided creates more uncertainties and ambiguities than it resolves. It is therefore inevitable that individual enforcement authorities are choosing to make their own interpretation of the regulations. This is creating considerable confusion and uncertainty, as well as generating higher costs for membership clubs than would otherwise be the case.
"Our concern is not new. As was reported in the Department's Analysis of Consultation Responses, published in December last year, we were one of the several organisations that requested guidance well in advance of the legislation coming into force, to allow enough time for planning, commissioning and building facilities for smoking. The premises regulations alone do not provide that necessary guidance.
"The situation would be greatly improved if further guidance on "substantially enclosed" were to be made available by the Department, or the Department of Communities and Local Government. We are aware that the Minister of State responsible for planning, Ms Yvette Cooper, has already stated in a Parliamentary
Answer (16 January 2007) that her department has no plans to issue planning guidance or a planning circular. We would therefore be grateful to know if your own Department can assist in any possible way. If guidance along the lines we are seeking has been provided to enforcement authorities, could this guidance be made publicly available?"
I hope this update will be of assistance to Club Committees currently considering this important matter. There is no doubt that the new regulations will have a significant effect on the entire leisure industry.
However, as I have mentioned above, only time Hill create any real evidence of just how much our Clubs will be affected. We shall continue to provide up-to-date information on this subject.