Bleak outlook" for NI pubs

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Public house, Nicotine

Northern Ireland's pubs and bars are facing a "bleak outlook" a year on from the smoking ban, a trade chief has warned. Stephen Kelly, chief...

Northern Ireland's pubs and bars are facing a "bleak outlook" a year on from the smoking ban, a trade chief has warned.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of the Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade Northern Ireland, said he expects the country to lose seven per cent of its pubs over the next two years.

Figures released earlier this year revealed that like-for-like sales in the on-trade have dropped seven per cent since the ban a year ago today. Ninety-three pubs and bars closed between 2005 and last December, the Mintel figures also showed.

Kelly said: "As a piece of health public policy the ban has been a success. But the much promised march of non-smokers has not materialised."

He also complained that councils and planners had hindered the trade with delays in planning applications for smoking solutions.

"It's a bleak outlook with the difficulty of the credit crunch as well," added Kelly. "Bars in rural areas have found it extremely difficult."

He also noted the ban had "accelerated the slide" from the on-trade to the off-trade.

But he added: "There is hope and there are bars that are bucking the trend and we are trying to understand why they are successful and share that."

He pointed to one pub where trade is up 30 per cent, but admitted this was due to its increased food offer.

Kelly also pointed to "excellent" compliance among the trade and the general public to the smoking ban.

Meanwhile barstaff in Derry have seen a major improvement in their health since the ban, according to research by the Western Investing for Health Partnership.

The numbers reporting shortness of breath, wheezing, and irritated eyes all fell, while there was a 79 per cent drop in cotinine levels - a breakdown product from nicotine - for non-smokers.

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