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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 14:44 GMT
Smoking ban leads to last orders
Imperial Bar
The Imperial Bar has served its last pint
An Elgin bar has called last orders just two months after bringing a smoking ban into force.

Owner Harry Halkett outlawed smoking in the Imperial Bar in November and has now called time permanently at the bar due to a lack of custom.

He brought in the rule to see if it would work before committing money to modernising the Morayshire pub.

The Scottish Executive plans to bring in a nationwide smoking ban for pubs by March 2006.

Mr Halkett said he lost 85% of his regulars as soon as he brought the ban into force and claims his experience proves it will not work for small traditional pubs.

Harry Halkett
If I'm scared of heights I wouldn't become a steeplejack, likewise no-one is forced to go into a smoky bar
Harry Halkett
Former bar owner

He claimed the final call came after two darts teams bought just one drink between them on Monday in protest against the ban.

The 50-year-old former smoker said licensed premises like his, with no food facilities and no garden for smokers, would be forced to close when the law came into force.

He believes landlords should be offered a choice on the issue and, if not, they should be entitled to some form of compensation.

Mr Halkett said: "The people who want go to bars regularly either smoke or tolerate the atmosphere.

"And the trade need these people. I don't feel people need this much protection.

"If I'm scared of heights I wouldn't become a steeplejack, likewise no-one is forced to go into a smoky bar.

Up for sale

"It's a matter of choice for everyone, and there are plenty of restaurants and places that operate no-smoking areas successfully.

"But this is like many other small bars in the cities and towns, and there simply is not enough room to provide a separate room for smokers. The no-smoking ban means the end for this type of bar."

Mr Halkett pulled the last pint in his bar on Tuesday and the property - a bar since 1878 - has now been put up for sale.

Bar regular, local farmer Grigor Butler, 36, said: "It is a great loss to this town when such an old bar closes, and for no good reason other than someone in government making choices for us.

They are not playing on a level playing field
David Gow
NHS Grampian

"Harry runs a good bar, an old-fashioned place where you can have a chat and drink.

"It's a pity his customers have deserted him, but they were all smokers and he understands its nothing personal.

"Once implemented by law, this smoking ban will clear the towns and cities of bars like this, and along with them will go all the jobs they created."

But anti-smoking campaigners Ash Scotland said most licensees in places like New York and Ireland, where bans have already been introduced, had not lost money and the ban had widespread popular support.

David Gow of NHS Grampian said it was "very commendable" for pubs to implement a smoking ban in advance of the new legislation.

However, he stressed: "They are not playing on a level playing field, and that is something that will be extremely beneficial come spring of next year."

Why Scottish ministers backed the ban


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