More than three in four licensees say trade has suffered due to the smoking ban — but consumers overwhelmingly welcome the change.
Those are the findings of exclusive research for the Morning Advertiser on the eve of the first anniversary of the English smoking ban.
The research is in three parts: a survey of Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) member companies, a poll of MA readers and a survey of 2,000 consumers by OnePoll.
The readers' poll showed 77% of licensees think that trade has suffered as a result of the ban.
Almost two thirds (63%) say business is worse than expected, and 72% predict a "challenging" or "very challenging" outlook for their business.
Three out of five licensees said they had let staff go or reduced their hours.
In addition, 73% want the ban lifted.
The downbeat findings are reflected in the ALMR survey, which found half of the multiple operators surveyed experienced a fall in profits of more than 6% since the ban.
In sharp contrast, the consumer survey found 78% of consumers are pleased that the ban was introduced. Even among smokers, a large proportion — 42% — are pleased that pubs are now smoke-free.
The difference in findings from the trade and consumers may be a reflection of the credit crunch and cheap supermarket pricing encouraging people to spend less in pubs.
The OnePoll survey found most consumers — smokers and non-smokers — visit the pub as often after the ban. Although 21% of smokers visit less, some 26% of smokers — and 31% of non-smokers — visit more.
Food and family trade have been boosted by the ban, the consumer survey shows, with 80% of non-smokers — and 37% of smokers — now more likely to enjoy food in a pub.
Most consumers — 79% of non-smokers and 57% of smokers — consider the post-ban pub a better environment for families and children.
However, nearly half of smokers think the conversation and atmosphere in the pub is worse after the big stub-out.