Something to remember the next time someone warns “we’ll all be rooned”

No smoke signals a boom for pubs, clubs

NON-SMOKERS have flocked to pubs since they went smoke-free in July, a government survey has found.

And public support for the smoking ban is at an all-time high.

Remember the campaign against the smoking bans that ran for more than a year? Remember the forecasts of doom and gloom?

The State Government survey found that weekly pub attendance rose from 21 per cent of NSW adults to 26 per cent since the new regulations were introduced.

That’s a 25% growth in punters for pubs since the ban. I recognise that that doesn’t necessarily translate into a 25% increase in revenue, as that would require the new attenders to match the attendance frequency and drinking rate of the prior attenders (which probably is not the case), however there must be some increase in overall revenue indicated by such a growth in numbers.

The smoking ban has been exceptionally well received by the public:

About three-quarters of all adults now approve of the ban in pubs and clubs, and four out of five support the ban in gaming areas.

The last clause of the above quote is where the sting in the tail still lies for licensed premises though, especially for clubs:

But ClubsNSW spokesman Jeremy Bath said revenue had dropped by between eight and nine per cent – mainly because smokers were no longer able to light up while playing poker machines. Clubs had vehemently opposed the ban, predicting it would hurt clubs.

They’re getting more people through the door, but not making as much money because so much of their revenue stream comes from poker machines. Obviously, when the pokie players go to the outside courtyards to light up, lots of them are finding that they start socialising and that socialising is more fund than going back to play more pokies. Or they have time to reflect on how they’ve lost the rent money and really should stop before they gamble the groceries money as well. How horrible for them.

Yeah, you’re hearing that exceedingly small violin playing too? I can’t find it in my heart to knock up a great deal of sympathy for a loss of pokie revenue to the clubs, because those damn pokies seemed a large part of why so many clubs seemed like soulless deserts the last 15 years, and the problem those banks of machines pose to compulsive gamblers is well known. The clubs do have other choices of how to increase revenue if people aren’t stuck in those seats in front of the pokies so much now, and they really do all sound like changes that will make clubs nicer places to be.

However, Mr Bath said clubs hoped to increase food sales and become more family-oriented to compensate. “Clubs are spending more money on the quality of the food,” Mr Bath said.

Clubs have also spent $422 million over the past 18 months creating outdoor smoking areas.

All those clubs that once you would never take a child near now have child-friendly beer gardens in order to cater for the smokers. Most of them have added the courtyards to existing indoor dining areas which also allow kids, so that you can actually sit inside away from the smokers to eat and then let the kids run around outside for a while. This grows community, folks – isn’t that what these clubs were founded to provide, once upon a time?

Categories: health, law & order, Sociology

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6 replies

  1. YES!
    Now all we need is for the AHA in NSW to stop spouting rubbish against little “hole-in-the-wall” bars, Melbourne-style…
    It’s funny that the NSW AHA say they’re against these because pubs wouldn’t make any money without the massive licences (for similarly massive amounts of money) and that they’d all be rooned if smaller licences were available. Don’t they ever talk to their interstate counterparts?
    Methinks that what they really mean is “we’re scared that if hole-in-the-wall bars are allowed then patrons would like them better and we, the current members, would lose money!”
    Because if they really thought that NSWers wouldn’t like the Melbourne-style pubs, surely they’d be saying to the govt: “bring it on”!
    After all, wouldn’t that be the market at work??? 😉
    Anyway, it’s not going to happen in a hurry, given that both major parties in NSW are so hand-in-pocket with the AHA, and the hole-in-the-wall idea doesn’t have the same health impetus that the smoking ban had.
    But (to bring this back on topic) you have just made me realise that the smoking ban might HELP – if the NSW pubs aren’t making so much money from the pokies, maybe, just maybe they’ll eventually realise there are other ways to draw people in. Like live music. Even, occasionally, NON-COVER bands – or even better, something a little different – like JAZZ!
    Yeah, now I’m just being unreasonable. 😉
    Anyway, sorry to turn this so exclusively to NSW, but maybe it has the most to benefit from people getting away from the pokies a bit, given the current reliance on pokies in the state (isn’t it something like 10% of the world’s pokies are in NSW? isn’t that obscene?).

  2. We had dinner at the pub on Wednesday & Friday nights, and we’re having lunch there today. We wouldn’t have gone any of those times without the smoking ban because we have a baby. I’m also a chronic asthmatic. I love going to the pub, but for a long time I didn’t go very often because it made me feel sick.

  3. One of the differences over here in the West is that there aren’t pokies at every pub, club and watering hole. They’re all at the casino, and if you want to gamble, you go there. So pubs make their money from selling food and drink (generally drink) and bring in bands to attract patrons. After eight years living in Canbrrra, it made a very nice change to be able to visit a pub and not be confronted by people sitting around feeding the pokies. It makes a difference to the types of facilities which are popular, too – here in Perth there aren’t the sort of social clubs which are popular in NSW and the ACT. Instead, there are more pubs, restaurants and cafes, and a few nightclubs.
    Now, what I’m hoping is that the new liquor laws here in WA (which are supposed to allow the growth of small facilities) will actually have an effect, so there’s a chance of being able to go out somewhere social, and still enjoy something like a quiet atmosphere. One of the things which annoys me is that the majority of places which serve food and drink over here tend to be all hard surfaces, and as a result any noise multiplies. Given I get overloaded by too much noise very easily, I tend to avoid pubs and clubs as a result.

  4. The evidence I have read for the US suggests that business improves. Not really surprising if you think about it. 83% of Australian adults are non-smokers and – in Melbourne at least 60% of smokers preferred the restriction.
    So market conditions are better for nearly 90% of the population and worse for a bit more than 10% – even if it is true that many smokers are boozers it still seems a very sensible move just from viewpoint of economics.
    By the way in Melbourne at least the QuitLines did great business when the restrictions began – a further bonus.

  5. That all makes sense, Harry. Even the smokers who don’t want to give it up entirely usually have the occasional moan about it being too easy to smoke more heavily than they’d really like when they’re drinking.
    The difference between the forecasts and the actual results is quite fascinating, particularly when compared to the current heavy advertising from the Business Council regarding how “we’ll all be rooned” if any part of Workchoices is rolled back.

  6. My partner and I have eagerly embraced the now non-smoking pubs as it means that we can take our two young kids (six and 1-and-a-half) for pub meals and not feel like we’re doing irreparable harm to their lungs.
    We had a lovely Father’s Day lunch at a pub in Brunswick. The only downside was our enjoyment of the the sunshine in the beer garden was cut short when people at the table next to us lit-up after their lunch. But that was okay, because then we could move indoors play pinball and a game of pool!
    We are also trying to organise child care so that she and I can get back into enjoying live music in pubs again!

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