Licensees say the ban on smoking in enclosed public places, which took effect on March 26, 2006, “decimated” trade – and it has never recovered.
Cheap supermarket prices and the lower drink drive limit, which came into force in December 2014, are among the factors to have subsequently contributed to a downturn, with some in the trade saying the ban on smoking in public places “opened the floodgates” for further regulation and legislation.
“You could be forgiven for thinking that they tried the unthinkable and got away with it so they thought let’s keep hammering away, applying regulations and legislation,” said Billy Gold, who has run the Hielan Jessie pub on Glasgow’s Gallowgate for the past 20 years.
“There’s been a never-ending stream of things since then but there’s no question the smoking ban had a detrimental effect on trade – and still has.
“A lot of traditional pubs shut; it changed the face of the trade. It reset what your idea of normal was; ten years ago I would have been horrified at some of the figures.
“Takings were down dramatically and the trade never fully recovered.”
Dennis Forsyth, who has been in the trade for around 20 years and bought Fraserburgh pub Cheers out of receivership in 2005, agreed that the smoking ban has had a lasting impact on Scotland’s pub trade.
“It was a disaster for a lot of pubs,” he said.
“It didn’t really impact immediately, it just slowly chipped away at the trade.
“I bought Cheers because it had an outdoor area – the smoking ban was coming and I thought this place had potential.
“But it’s not just been about developing your business to accommodate smokers – it’s about food now and accommodating kids.
“The trade now [compared] to what it was then is like chalk and cheese.
“And it’s not just been the smoking ban. There’s cheap alcohol in supermarkets, the lower drink drive limit. Factor in all of that and you’re looking at a severely battered trade; those are heavy blows.”
SLTA chief executive Paul Waterson said the impact of the smoking ban on the pub trade continues to be felt a decade on.
“There’s no doubt it affected business radically,” he said.
“We were collateral damage in a war that was going on between the anti-smoking brigade, Scottish Government and tobacco industry and we were caught in the middle.
“We certainly didn’t need a complete ban; other European countries have more relaxed bans in place. But there’s no going back.
“This forced people out of pubs, which are controlled, to drinking at home.”