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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 June 2007, 07:04 GMT 08:04 UK
Venue sets stage for smoking ban
By Stuart Richards
BBC News

Brighton Centre
The Brighton Centre has stood on the city's seafront for 30 years
While many pubs and bars across England are thinking of new ways of making money when the smoking ban comes into force on 1 July, live music venues like the Brighton Centre are trying to prepare for the 'What if?' scenario of an artist lighting up on stage.

As an enclosed public place, the building and its bars, stage and artist areas, are all set to become legally smoke-free.

The Brighton Centre has operated its own no smoking policy for about 18 months - with concert-goers agreeing to it as a condition of buying their tickets - but it has not stopped all bands or singers having a puff.

Now business manager Penny Parker is sweating over whether a performer could end up landing the venue with a fine from the city council.

Artist contracts

Two members of the rock band Velvet Revolver were said to have smoked on stage at the Cardiff International Arena at the beginning of June, only two months after a ban began in Wales.

Cardiff Council's investigation of the incident involved reminding the arena's bosses that the "primary responsibility" for preventing smoking at the venue lay with them.

Penny Parker
I'm not going to march on stage and go, 'Right, stop smoking, out!'
Penny Parker, Brighton Centre
At the Brighton Centre, Ms Parker said: "We're trying to go to the promoters and we're going to write it into contracts that if there is a fine levied because the artist smoked, then the promoter and the artist will pay the fine.

"The onus is on the manager and the promoter to take it on board.

"There is no expectation that we will just muddle through - they may not smoke."

But Ms Parker added that a fine line would need to be drawn between upholding the law and ensuring public safety.

"In theory we're not the legal body that issues the fine, that's licensing officers and the police," she said.

"Someone could be puffing away on stage and nothing could happen because you may not have anyone there to enforce the law.

"I'm not going to march on stage and go, 'Right, stop smoking, out!', like some mother who comes home to a party in her house - I mean it would be a riot.

"If there are 5,000 people in there you may make decisions that aren't necessarily strictly within the letter of the law."

No smoking sign
The centre's own no smoking policy is not legally enforceable
She said the same concept applied to artists potentially smoking in their dressing rooms or other backstage areas.

"If we are back there for some reason or other and it's apparent that people are smoking, we have to say to those people that they must stop.

"But I don't want artists to go, you know, 'I don't want to go on stage' - we're not going to back off this, but if it gets ugly and I've done everything I can, I just want someone to pay my fine."

Ms Parker said the centre's existing policy had already worked well towards getting crowd members used to the reality of a smoking ban.

"I don't think we have a problem with the public at all," she said.

"We will have all the required signs and we'll able to say, 'This is the law, you may not smoke'."

And having fewer cigarette butts on the floor has made for a fresher Brighton Centre as well.

"The building is way cleaner and people's behaviour seems less slobbish," Ms Parker said.


SEE ALSO
Countdown to the ban
15 May 07 |  Magazine

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