Ban will stub out poorer pubs, warns Sheps' chief

SMOKE SIGNALS: Jonathan Neame predicts tough times for some pubs
SMOKE SIGNALS: Jonathan Neame predicts tough times for some pubs

NEXT year’s smoking ban will force some pubs out of business. That’s the stark warning from Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame, the 300-year old Faversham brewery.

Sheps is pumping £3million into its pub gardens and patio areas over the next few years to counter the ban. But Mr Neame warned that pubs failing to properly prepare for the change could go to the wall.

He said: "It’s definitely going to impact on some pubs very negatively."

There were too many pubs and too many were poor, with service and investment simply not good enough, he warned. The smoking ban would force them to improve or drive them out of business.

"There needs to be fewer pubs and the ones that there are need to be of higher quality. There are parts of Kent where there are too many pubs and plenty are closing.

"There are so many communities where you’ve got four or five pubs competing for the same market. That market would do well if there were only one or two good pubs."

Mr Neame expects bar takings to dip when the ban is introduced, but is confident food sales will increase. He believes it will accelerate the shift towards good quality pubs.

"We expect to see some pubs negatively affected but others where we will see them growing because they’ve got better facilities than the guy down the road."

Another consequence of the smoking ban - the Government has yet to reveal an implementation date - would be a fruit machine takings.

A high percentage of users were smokers, Mr Neame claimed. It could mean machines coming out of bars.

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