High-rise pubs a draw for sneaky smokers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 August, 2009, 12:00am

Smoke rises, and these days so do smokers.

As the month-old ban on smoking in all indoor entertainment venues takes hold at street level, smokers are moving to upstairs premises where managers either turn a blind eye or have given up trying to stop their patrons lighting up.

Pub checks by South China Morning Post reporters this week has found few people dare to smoke in bars on the ground floor in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. But upstairs - including one high-rise building in Causeway Bay that has several pubs - it is a different story.

On Wednesday night, a handful of customers were seen smoking as they drank at one of the upper floor pubs where ashtrays were available.

Asked why smoking was allowed, the manager, who identified himself as Jaime, said staff could do little if customers insisted on smoking.

'We tried to advise regular customers not to smoke when the smoking ban came into force. But it was hard for us to keep pestering them ... so if they don't listen to us we give up,' he said, adding that ashtrays were not put out on tables but could be picked up from the bar.

The scene was similar at two other pubs on upper floors of the building.

'It is safe to smoke at upstairs bars, especially those high up in the building,' customer Man Cheung said. 'The security guard on the ground usually tips off bar owners when Tobacco Control Officers arrive. Bars on first and second floors may not have enough time to act but those on higher floors are able to ask their customers to stub their cigarettes and take away the ashtrays.'

The ban is being felt elsewhere though, with operators saying more than 30 bars could close soon because of lost business. Massage centres say business has dropped by half and mahjong parlours report a drop of up to 40 per cent.