Irish pub shows sign of the times by relaxing ban on smoking

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 April, 2006, 12:00am

'Meet you under the clock' is set to become the new Lan Kwai Fong catchphrase. Irish pub the Dublin Jack has been relocated and will reopen on June 1, complete with a signature street clock.

Lan Kwai Fong has always lacked a landmark rendezvous point, says Noel Smyth, managing director of Delaney's Development, which owns the Dublin Jack.

After being pushed out of its Cochrane Street home under the Mid-Levels escalator when the asking rent doubled, the Dublin Jack will reopen in 3,800 square foot premises.

Located above Bulldog's Bar and Grill, it will face both Lan Kwai Fong and D'Aguilar Streets. But will Hong Kong's first non-smoking pub still be ashtray-free?

'To be very honest, we're not going smoke-free,' says Mr Smyth. 'It looks to be about 18 months before any ban becomes law here.' The new premises has a big, covered open area and can cater for both smokers and non-smokers, he adds.

Some countries, such as Ireland, have reported a drop in business at bars by 15-25 per cent following the introduction of a blanket smoking ban, while some US cities saw turnover drop by half. A study cited the loss of one in 10 bar jobs in the six months after New York watering holes went smoke-free in 2003.

In the case of the Dublin Jack, weekend family business had increased, but not enough to make up for the loss of smoking drinkers during weekdays. 'Going smoke-free again would be too much of a risk in Lan Kwai Fong. It's a big investment and it's a first-floor site with a ground floor pub underneath. It's unrealistic to expect drinkers to go downstairs and outside for a cigarette,' said Mr Smyth.

To ban smoking this time around would be 'shooting ourselves in the foot when the government hasn't done it yet. The market is telling us it's not a good thing to do because people here really aren't ready for a smoking ban'.

More Irish drinks

Drinkers soon will have a choice of Irish bars in Central, with newcomer McSorley's Ale House opening in Soho's Elgin Street on May15.

Clayton Parker, managing director of Eclipse Management, says it won't be a clone of the famous New York City bar of the same name.

Rather, they're 'tipping their hat' in recognition of the 7th Street hostelry, he said.

The original establishment is a hard act to follow: founders John and Bill McSorley traditionally bought the last round every


They also managed to evade prohibition because their regulars were all politicians and relaxed their century-old policy against serving women only in 1969.

More Irish Links

Keen to muscle in on airline routes linking Hong Kong to Dublin via the Middle East, Ireland's flag carrier Aer Lingus has introduced a service to Dubai, which connects via oneworld partner Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong.

The thrice-weekly service will have improved connection times in Dubai once the service goes daily from November, says John Byrne of the Walshe Group, the newly appointed sales agent for Aer Lingus in Hong Kong.

The Aer Lingus-CX service will compete with Gulf Air flights from Asia to Ireland via the Middle East. This route appeals to Asia's New York-bound travellers who prefer to use America's immigration facilities at Dublin Airport, rather than be processed upon landing in the US.

Hotel Boom continues

Instead of the usual post-Lunar New Year dip, Hong Kong hotel occupancies continued to rise through February and March.

March occupancy averaged 89.82 per cent, versus 83.61 per cent for the same month last year - a 6.2 percentage point increase.

Average room rates showed an even stronger upward trend, reaching $1,049 in March, up 10.2 per cent from last year's $952.

As a result, the all-important yield rose 18.4 per cent in March from $796 in 2005 to $943 this year.