Smoking ban will burn a hole in beer sales, pubs warned

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The Independent Online

English publicans have been served notice that they can expect to see beer sales slump by four per cent after the introduction of next month's smoking ban.

That means pubs will sell 200 million fewer pints over the next 12 months as smokers shun them to stock up at the off-licence for a session at home, market research firm Nielsen warned.

Pub chains have scrambled to refurbish their outlets, install smoking shelters in their gardens, and spice up their food menus in an attempt to stop customers deserting their premises after 1 July.

Analysis of the impact of the smoking ban on pubs' takings in Scotland, which banned smoking in March 2006, showed that beer volumes plummeted by seven per cent in the following 12 months.

Graham Page, at Nielsen, said: "The on trade is already under intense pressure with the number of pub visits falling and aggressive off trade pricing continuing to take trade. The introduction of the smoking ban next month will put even more strain on the sector."

He added: "Beer is already under intense pressure south of the border with volume down four per cent year on year." He predicted that the ban on lighting up inside pubs would cause beer sales to fall twice as fast.

Mitchells & Butler, which owns some of Edinburgh's most famous pubs, including Greyfriars Bobby, recently revealed that drink sales in Scotland had dropped in the year to May although food sales had risen.

Mr Page said the flip side of selling more food was that wine sales had climbed by three per cent in Scotland in the 12 months to March. "This suggests a shift in the type of consumer frequenting the on trade and an opportunity licensees need to grab," he added.

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