On Friday night from 9-10.30 pm Richard Rout and I walked through the town to see for ourselves whether the smoking ban was having an impact on behaviour at pubs and bars in the historic core. On Saturday Richard did so alone, and took one or two photographs for the record. Here are So-Bar customers on the pavement of Hatter Street at about 10.30pm. For the record, Hatter Street houses 21 residents.
Our main conclusion was that this was a very quiet weekend, whether because it was the middle of the month or holiday time or both we can only guess. Certainly the police staff on duty on Friday (including PC Paul Fax and PCSO Ryan Wilson) were so convinced of this that when we suggested to them that it was quiet they told us to shhhh in case things changed!
We went around all the pubs and bars in the historic core. The D&P was busy, with its garden pretty well full. The smokers were in it and that and the heat will have attracted others there. The Queens head had another busy garden, plus several smokers on the pavement, whilst the Hide Bar had none. So-Bar was busy outside on both nights.
It is difficult to draw conclusions from our mini survey, but there is no doubt in my mind that the smoking ban is bound to bring customers on the street, especially where there is no garden. Those patrons are not likely to keep particularly quiet, so that in the small final licensing hours there will inevitably be an additional nuisance to nearby residents.
I therefore believe that our Licensing Policy should reflect this situation, and that Licensing Act panels should take the ban into account when making decisions on individual licence applications.