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Dublin: 11°C Monday 4 July 2022

"It's the future": Restaurants and cafés are cracking down on smoking outside

Two business owners told us why they’ve done it.

Image: Joe Macken

A NUMBER OF cafés and restaurants in the capital are cracking down on smoking outside their premises, by designating no-smoking areas on their terraces.

JoBurger and the Metro Café are two of the Dublin locations which have installed ‘no smoking’ zones outside, where customers sit and eat. They told us that they haven’t had major complaints from customers over the move.

In 2004, Ireland became the first country in the world to ban smoking in the workplace, and the price of tobacco has risen in subsequent budgets.

Just under a quarter of adults in Ireland are smokers. The latest Healthy Ireland survey found that 23% of adults in Ireland smoke – the same proportion as in the 2015 survey. But it also found that 48% of all smokers want to quit.

Almost 13 years on from the smoking ban, playgrounds are next on the list for being designated as non-smoking areas.

Where is smoking banned?

Under the law, smoking is banned in a place of work, including a licensed premises once it is a place of work.

The Citizens Information Board explains:

The purpose of this ban is to offer protection to employees and the public who are exposed to the harmful and toxic effects of tobacco smoke in the workplace. Smoking has been identified as a major cause of heart disease and a significant contributor to lung cancer.

It also notes that employers have the discretion to provide an outdoor smoking area, “subject to the requirements of the law” – this means a place or premises, or part of a place or premises, that is not covered by a roof – or one that is covered by a roof, as long as not more than 50% of the perimeter “is covered by a wall, windows, gate, or similar”.

Joe Macken of JoBurger and Niall Kavanagh (co-owner with Eileen Kavanagh) of Metro Café told us why they have taken steps to limit where their customers can smoke.

“We are getting a really good response”

At JoBurger, a Dublin gourmet burger chain, they have had smoking on their outside terrace banned for almost a year, while another business Metro Café recently designated part of its outside terrace for no-smoking. In both cases, food is served on the terraces.

Macken, of JoBurger, told TheJournal.ie that despite the fact he and most of his managers are smokers, they decided to introduce the measure at their two restaurants on Castle Market and at Smithfield because of their “general disgust for smoking when you’re eating – it’s just horrible”.

For Macken, the decision has a lot to do with the needs and health of his staff, as well as customers. “[With] no smoking laws you’re not allowed to smoke in a workplace, and a terrace is a workplace,” he pointed out.

“We found we are getting a really, really good response to it,” said Macken. “Our customers are really responding to it.”

The terraced area outside JoBurger is marked off with wind-breakers. Macken said that they haven’t gotten many complaints about the move, saying that smokers have adapted.

“We get some people that just stand outside the door [to smoke],” he said. “Most people get the whole buzz about it.”

Health concerns

Macken is such a proponent of the idea that he has even asked people from neighbouring restaurants and cafés if they plan on bringing in the change.

“It’s invasive,” said Macken of smoking in public areas. “I am real fussy, I can’t hide it and I can’t deal with the smell.”

“It’s a choice it’s more about respect – it’s only when you’re eating,” he added.

It’s like going on holidays to somewhere that is not Europe and someone lights up in a restaurant: you are in shock. When you are in public spaces and you smell cigarettes it’s just really off-putting. Life changes and life moves on and we are making healthier choices. Everyone enjoys a cigarette – I do – but not when you’re eating. There’s a real time and a place, it’s like smoking in a car.

‘People used to laugh at me sitting outside’

shutterstock_324172031 A young couple smoking outside a café in Paris. Source: Shutterstock/Ekaterina Pokrovsky

Over at Metro Café, the introduction of a no-smoking area outside the café at 43 South William Street came after some planning. “We had planned on introducing it last year and we just never got around to it, so it was always on my mind,” said co-owner Niall Kavanagh.

The site also doesn’t have wifi, because the owners “wanted to have people chatting and talking away and I didn’t think the cafe was the right place to be staring at a computer as a mini office” explained Kavanagh.

While currently around 30% of Metro’s outside space is designated non-smoking, Kavanagh wants to more than double this. “So far we have designated a small area, but we’re waiting on the heaters to come so we can expand that. [We want] 80% of it non-smoking. I think 20% of it would be sitting outside that you can smoke.”

He and his partner were inspired by New York’s café culture when it came to opening their own premises, with the aim of having a warm space outside where people can watch the world go by. And now, this means most of the clientele won’t be able to have a smoke while doing so.

But Kavanagh has always been ahead of the trend when it comes to making big changes.

When we opened up 21 years ago, Eileen and myself, we came back from New York and we were some of the first people to have a cafe. People used to laugh at me, I used to sit outside trying to inspire people to come and sit and use it outside and they thought I was nuts. So it was always on my mind that we would have a café culture and this is just the next part of it.

Kavanagh, who is a non-smoker, said that he loves to sit outside his café and wants his customers to feel the same.

He wants his customers to enjoy the “free theatre” of sitting outside on South William Street, and “not to have to endure someone’s else’s smoke”.

On a walk down South William St, TheJournal.ie noticed that most cafés have ashtrays on their outside terraces.

Like Macken, Kavanagh also cited concerns about his staff members’ health. He is also a major proponent of small, locally-owned cafés.

“People are browned off with chains – they want the experience,” he said.

“It’s the future,” he said of smoke-free café experiences. “Like café culture was the future years ago.”

‘They are within their rights’

Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland said he hadn’t heard from members about a major move to bring in more non-smoking areas, but “if food is served obviously they are within their rights to do so”.

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“I haven’t heard of any member talking about it – by and large it doesn’t seem to be an issue and I haven’t heard any consumers giving out,” he said. “Within my knowledge they are within their rights to do it.”

We would have been one of the major supporters of the no smoking ban when it first came in. Publicans were opposed to it, we supported it. It transformed the working environment.

“It’s up to the restaurant owners to do what they want to do and we would support them,” said Cummins.

If you have an enclosed area and you have customers seated at it and food is being served at it and staff are out there serving, obviously it’s a working environment.

“If it’s a public area outside that’s defined as a pub and not private property that brings in a totally other legal concept,” said Cummins.

“Whereas if you have a windbreaker and you’re defining your property from within that that’s within your property.

“We abide by the law and we support it.”

The smokers’ point of view

shutterstock_473096191 Source: Shutterstock/vchal

The spokesperson for smokers’ group Forest Ireland told TheJournal.ie that the group believes “the public should be allowed to make up their own mind” about smoking areas, and this extends to pub and restaurant owners.

“In Holland you can decide; you can designate your pub as a smoking pub,” he said. “That’s the way we thought it should have been done here.”

The spokesperson said he doubted that there would be consistent interest in outdoor non-smoking areas from non-smokers. “Smokers will go out in the cold and rain,” he said. “It will all look lovely in the summertime [but not in winter].”

“They have no other choice so they will go out,” he said of smokers’ enthusiasm for outdoor areas.

Forest Ireland’s preference is for indoor smoking areas away from the main non-smoking areas. “And what do the smokers want anyway – it would be lovely if they had a smoking room away from the main bar with a roof on it and tables and chairs and so on, that they could just go out to,” said the spokesperson of pubs.

But he also said that “out of courtesy you wouldn’t have people smoking in front of people eating. If people have food outside it wouldn’t make sense if people are eating.”

He said that smokers are outside because “they are forced out there”.

“They just decided to force them out to shame them out onto the street. Now they make it difficult for them by not providing any facilities outside.”

The spokesperson said that Forest Ireland is not in favour of people smoking and doesn’t promote smoking.

He added that a recent study by Forest in the UK which looked into why people smoke found that the vast majority said they smoke because they enjoy it.

The majority of people smoke because they enjoy it so when they are inconvenienced or the price is put up they go to the black market. They just make sure to wrap up well when going out or they stay at home.

Read: Almost one in every four Irish adults smokes – and the numbers aren’t falling>

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