Loopholes in a shaky indoor smoking ban were tightened in May, forcing people outside to smoke.
This has made little difference for big restaurants, but many owners of little pubs and restaurants in the densely populated state are complaining they have lost business since their clients can no longer smoke on the premises.
In the city of Essen alone pubs are reporting a downturn of on average 30 percent, the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported.
Pub owner Christiane Behnke told the paper that she had seen the decline personally. “There's less going on at the bar and there's constant disruption as people get up and run outside,” she told the paper.
Hospitality expert Rainer Nothoff told the paper that people were tending to stay at home more, where they could smoke in comfort. He expected, he said, a rash of pub closures over the coming years.
Bars in a busy area of Bochum were often closing earlier than usual due to a lack of custom. “We shut two hours early on the weekends,” said owner of the Mandragora bar Dirk Streinbrecher. He added that he was yet to find a way to keep customers on their seats but knew one thing: “cut-price drinks were a bad idea.”
In the city of Dortmund, inspectors have taken a particularly strict approach to the ban. There have been already 33 incidents in which a bar or restaurant had been charged with breaking the law. Ten watering holes have had to pay €1,800 fines and 242 have received warnings.