The Government's long-awaited definition of what sort of structures publicans can provide outside for smokers in the wake of next year's smoking ban still leaves everything up in the air, complains Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR).
At last the Department of Health has acknowledged the need to publish the definitions of semi-enclosed areas for the outside of pubs and bars and other premises that need to implement the smoking ban in England and Wales from 1 July next year.
The relief turns to irritation that all this could have been done a long time ago because nothing has changed from the draft regulations proposed last summer and, in the long review of the submissions, there is no sign that the concerns of operators have been considered, let alone resolved.
The definition of a semi-enclosed area imposes an onerous burden that will have to be interpreted locally, site by site, and will remain at the whim of the local enforcement authority.
For example the definition fails completely to understand the issue of courtyards where a single parasol will, apparently, disqualify the area from being "outside".
This will be a particular burden on the smaller, individual businesses that are going to be at the front line of making a success of the ban.
We note that the Government is going to supply the signage - once it has received Brussels approval - and ALMR applauds this gesture, depending on how it translates into practice.
The remaining regulations - on exemptions and fines and vehicles - have yet to be published and we hope against hope that these will reflect the well-argued concerns of multiple operators and the other licensed trade submissions.
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