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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 June 2007, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
Members' club bemoans smoking ban
By Stuart Richards
BBC News

Tables and chairs on a roof terrace

A working men's club in Kent found itself looking to the heavens for divine inspiration over the smoking ban - and it soon became apparent that there was only one option available for an outside smoking space.

So the legislation due to come into force on 1 July has resulted in the steward at Herne Bay Ex-Servicemen's Club having tables and chairs appear on a patio terrace outside his first floor flat.

Club secretary Jean Gilham explained: "We are straight onto the pavement at the front and we are straight onto a back alley which is a public right of way.

"There is no garden and we're a terraced building."

Alongside the disruption of having to improvise in finding an outside space for the club's smokers, Ms Gilham and committee chairman Mick Ayton remain convinced that private members' clubs should be exempted from the ban.

And the most galling aspect is that two smoke extractors were purchased a couple of years ago when they were "given to understand" that they would indeed have an exemption.

New stairlift

Ms Gilham said: "Working on that theory, but knowing that people didn't want to come into a smoky atmosphere, we installed them at a cost of 4,000 to 5,000 which is a lot of money to us."

But premises like the ex-servicemen's club do fall under the legislation, meaning the same amount of money has had to be spent again on preparing for the ban.

The patio terrace above the snooker room and toilets downstairs now boasts four garden tables and eight chairs, safety railings and wooden screens - and there is a new stairlift in place before the more elderly members can even reach the smoking space.

But eight chairs for roughly three-quarters of a 700-strong membership who smoke?

Ms Gilham estimates that somewhere between 15 and 25% of the club's business could disappear if members decide to buy drinks from a supermarket or off-licence and just stay at home.

"It's all about the loyalty of our members," she said.

"If they are not loyal to us and they don't come in here, we will go to the wall."

John King
I like my drink and my fags and I'm in here every day
John King, club member
But Mr Ayton declared: "It's going to be very hard, but we are survivors here."

Nonetheless, with live music, dancing, bingo and private functions already existing revenue streams, and food sales not an option, the future for Herne Bay Ex-Servicemen's Club remains unclear.

"We can't understand why we're not exempt," Mr Ayton said.

"Most of our members are very, very against the ban and very angry - even the non-smokers."

John King, 68, is one of them.

A smoker since the age of 13 and a member at the club for 40 years, the former artilleryman said: "We should be able to decide [for ourselves] because this is a private club, it's not for the public to come in here.

"I'll still come in, I'll go outside and smoke. If it's raining, I'll stand outside the back door. I like my drink and my fags and I'm in here every day."

Members have been asked not to put their club in a difficult situation, with a warning that any person who refuses to refrain from smoking indoors "will face a disciplinary hearing, which will more than likely result in loss of membership and/or a ban from using the club".

Countdown to the ban
15 May 07 |  Magazine


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