German smoking ban crippling bars and pubs

A partial smoking ban in Germany has led to plummeting profits at pubs, bars and discotheques, according to new figures from the country's Federal Statistics Office.

German smoking ban crippling bars and pubs
Photo: DPA

In German states where a smoking ban has been introduced, bars and clubs saw a 14 percent drop in earnings between October and December 2007, the stats office reported. That amounted to 5.3 percent less turnover than in states where smokers are still allowed to light up in those places.

A few years ago, the German government abandoned attempts to enforce a federal ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, instead letting the country’s 16 states write their own anti-tobacco laws. As a result, bars in the capital Berlin have been granted a reprieve, some restaurants in Bavaria have found a loophole by converting to private clubs and in three other German states courts have watered down the new tobacco laws, ruling that in smaller pubs lighting up is legal again.

The report by the Federal Statistics Office found that restaurants, cafes, ice-cream parlors and snack bars were less hard hit by the smoking ban.

“The majority of guests value the smoking ban while eating,” said Julius Wagner from the Federal Association of German Hotels and Restaurants (Dehoga). But he pointed out that restaurants with just one room, unable to offer smokers a separate space to puff away, had seen their earnings sink lower than was evident from the report.

He urged Germany’s constitutional court in Karlsruhe, which is due to hear challenges to the ban next week from two pub owners and the manager of a discotheque, to consider a quick and permanent ruling on exceptions in one-room restaurants. “The future of earnings in this sector depends on the constitutional court,” Wagner said.

But Sabine Bätzing, Germany’s federal commissoner on drug issues, denied that state smoking bans had led to a huge financial burden on restaurant owners.

In an interview with German daily Frankfurter Rundschau, Bätzing said experience in Ireland and Italy had shown “there was an increase in turnover and guests after the smoking ban was introduced.”