Monday, December 24, 2007

Bar trade buggered. No one surprised

I see that, as fucking well predicted, pubs are having a hard time after the smoking ban.
Horrendous sales figures over August and September saw on-trade liquor volumes nosedive by 7% posing further long term doubts over the ability of hundreds of UK pubs to survive.

Beer sales alone over the two months witnessed a huge 10% drop as the two months failed to compensate for the disastrous summer.

Grim predictions are that as many as 2,000 pubs could close their doors over the next two years or so if volumes continue to freefall.

As Tim Almond points out,
So, the people who said they supported the ban and would go more often if pubs were less smoky didn’t turn up?

Well, no, it looks like they didn't but then, really, what did we expect—have you been spending more time and money down your local boozer, Neil? However, I have a couple of other theories that may also contribute to this fall in sales.

The first two involve smokers themselves. Many pubs do not, or cannot, let punters take their drinks outside and, since smokers now have to go outside to smoke, they are physically drinking less in the alloted time. Personally, I do not smoke as much as I used to when in a pub (I'm too busy drinking and shooting my mouth off to notice the lack) but, for a reasonably heavy smoker, their cigarette consumption of an evening may add up to at least half and hour. At my rate of drinking that might be one or two pints, depending whether or not I have a thirst on.

The second factor is the "fresh air effect"—have you ever noticed that, when in the pub, you often feel no more than a wee bit tipsy but, once you've walked outside for a few minutes, you realise that you are actually quite pissed? Well, smokers standing about outside may well become prey to the "fresh air effect" and realise that they are drunker than they thought and, thus, will slow down their subsequent consumption.

The last involves non-smokers and it is a totally unproven but, I think, generally correct theory. The fact is that those who really worried about smoking—particularly the health aspects—are simply not the kind of people who drink a lot (because they worry about the health risks, etc.). The fact is that those who smoke are probably a lot more reckless with their health than those who do not smoke; thus I would posit that those who smoke are inherently the type of people drink more, and more often. And, of course, whilst there may be more non-smokers going to the pub, they simply are not drinking enough to replace the amount consumed by the smokers who are now staying away.

Given all of these factors, it is unsurprising that pub takings are down. Furthermore, we knew that this would happen: after all, in January, Mr E highlighted a report from Scotland that demonstrated similar shortfalls in takings.
A study by the International Epidemiological Association has found that the smoking ban in Scotland has, as predicted by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and consistently denied by the Executive, led to a fall in both revenues and customers in Scottish pubs.
The authors collected data on 2724 pubs - 1590 in Scotland and 1134 in Northern England. In conclusion, they say the ban, introduced on March 26 last year, has seen a 10% decrease in sales and a 14% fall in customers in pubs. "Our study suggests that the Scottish smoking ban had a negative economic impact on public houses … due in part to a drop in the number of customers."

"The short-term impact of the ban did not lead to more customers coming into pubs due to the smoke-free atmosphere, and presumably did not lead smokers to spend more money on drink or food instead of smoking."

Before the ban was brought in, ministers flatly denied that the ban would hit trade; indeed, they argued that the ban would actually benefit business, as the smoke-free atmosphere would draw in people who had previously avoided them. Now that the licensed trade's gloomy predictions are beginning to be backed up with hard facts, the politicos are changing tack; OK, so it is hurting business after all, they admit - but we don't give a shit.

Everyone knows best, it seems; everyone except the individual, who just has to buckle down and do what he's told.

Yup, that is pretty much NuLabour's attitude, really.

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