community - mixed results but food is not the only solution

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Related tags: Smoking ban, Smoking

The Pheasant, a Marston's leasehold near the centre of Newtown, has created a cosy back courtyard with a heated jumbrella and gazebo for live bands....

The Pheasant, a Marston's leasehold near the centre of Newtown, has created a cosy back courtyard with a heated jumbrella and gazebo for live bands.

Together with seating at the front, this has expanded licensees Janice and Howard Johnston's trading area by 40%.

The development is part of a "rentalised" £60,000 refurbishment carried out to

coincide with the start of the ban. It has helped turn the former spit-and-sawdust boozer into a vibrant community venue.

Howard, a local Licensed Victuallers

Association chairman, says: "As a

back-street pub, we wanted to ensure we could cope with the change. Marston's

support has been very good."

Planning is still pending for a lean-to smoking shelter, after documents had to be re-submitted. "Government guidelines being late was a big problem - when we finally got to see them, they were different from what we had anticipated," says Howard.

Boost to business

The remaining preparations, which include a new food offer, have had a positive effect on business, regardless of the glitch.

"Since the ban came in, our outdoor area has been full every day," Johnston adds. "Our trade is up, although I realise that we are in a honeymoon period following our capital investment. And bar food has taken off tremendously.

"The biggest challenge for us lies in

educating our customers," continues

Johnston, who has put "no-smoking" beer mats on tables as a friendly reminder.

"It means that they are having to change their habits, but that's slowly happening.

"Brits like their pint. As long as customers have smoking facilities, the smoke ban won't break the resolve of the British pub."

A few streets away, drinking habits are changing at the Queen's Head Hotel.

Punch tenant Dylwan Jones says: "My evening trade dropped by about £1,000 a week after the ban started. And I've had to lay off staff. It's picking up a bit now, but it still hasn't returned to its previous level.

"People would stop here after work and have two or three pints, but that has dried up now. I rely on my darts and dominoes teams - if I didn't have something on every night, I'd be forced to close." Jones has also introduced regular charity bingo nights to help win back trade. So far, they are helping to occupy the otherwise empty pub.

"It's as if the Government wants to close pubs down or turn them into restaurants," he adds. "Punch tried to push me to do food, but this isn't a food pub. It wouldn't work."

Despite having plenty of space for a

smoking shelter at the front of the Queen's Head, which would be visible to those

passing by on the busy main road into

Newtown, Jones says results of his plan have still not materialised.

"Punch promised it would be done by 2 April. It has gone through the planning process and there has been nothing to stop it. Hopefully in the next two weeks it will be done. I'm losing trade because people won't stand out in the rain. The weather was OK in April, but we had a lot of rain in May."

Gains balance losses

Around the corner, free-trader Dave Jones, who runs the Railway Tavern - also a

drinking pub - has only lost a couple of

customers since the ban came in.

He says: "What we lose, we'll gain in new trade - people are coming in because we're smoke-free now. But trade is down on wet nights - people are staying in."

The Railway has a designated smoking area at the back, with a few tables and

parasols. But many drinkers go out to the front, where there is a wall-mounted

ashtray, to smoke. However, they are often seen as a nuisance. "Sometimes families who walk past shout at the people smoking at the front of the pub," says Jones.

The host has spent about £2,000 on preparing the back area and is considering having a shelter installed in time for winter, which he envisages will cost a further £1,500. "Every pub is different - it's worth looking at what you have and trying to improve it," Jones advises.

KEY Lessons

l One of the biggest challenges lies in

educating customers about the ban

l Consider organising regular events, such as charity bingo, to help win back trade

l Work on attracting customers who enjoy smoke-free pubs

Related topics: News, Legislation

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