Fears landlords could charge a premium for premises with outdoor sections Monday's smoking ban could have a major effect on restaurant rents with landlords charging a premium for premises with outdoor sections, and owners of small, enclosed facilities having difficulty finding tenants, warned the catering sector lawmaker. Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who has asked a university to carry out an 18-month survey on the impact of the smoking ban in the earnings at 1,000 restaurants, believes the new legislation will have a detrimental effect on the food and beverage industry. 'I've been saying for a year that restaurants should be looking for premises that have balconies if they have clientele who are smokers,' Mr Cheung said. Restaurants that will likely lose business under the new ban are above ground level and have no outside seating or balconies, forcing clients to go downstairs and outdoors to smoke, he said. 'A lot of bars, clubs and restaurants went upstairs because they could not afford the rent on the ground floor. A smoking ban could drive them out of business,' Mr Cheung said. Before a date for the ban's implementation was even decided some restaurant groups were preparing for it. The Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments' California bar and restaurant in Central sets up outdoor seating on weekend evenings and invites smokers to sit there. At the nearby Lux bar, customers who want to light up will have to move outside to the street. The group has 13 bars and restaurants. Three have been given ban deferrals until June 2009. In the meantime, staff in those restaurants and many more throughout Hong Kong have undergone training to deal with customers who refuse to stub out their cigarettes. 'We had training for staff about the law and how to handle customers during this breaking-in period,' said Terence Loo Tai-ling, head of marketing and communications for Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments. 'They will ask customers to put out their cigarettes. If they refuse, we will ask them to pay their bill and leave. If they still refuse, staff will contact the manager, and as a very last resort, call police.' The manager of one restaurant bar with open frontage but no outdoor seating in Wan Chai said his staff would carry out 'due diligence' at midnight and remove the ashtrays from tables. It would be up to customers to decide whether to continue smoking 'because they're the ones who would get fined, not the restaurant'. As of yesterday, about 200 bars, massage and mahjong parlours were awaiting government approval for exemptions from the ban until June 2009. As of Monday, anyone smoking in venues without exemptions could be summonsed for lighting up in a smoke-free area.