A rant about the success of the smoking ban.

I put a ranty comment of a post of Leg-Irons at the weekend. He was tearing David Cameron a new arsehole for suggesting that the smoking ban was a success. It's well worth a read so I suggest you pop over there then come back here. I'll get the kettle on while you're gone.

*Brews up*

Amongst others, one of the 'successes' Leg-Iron picks up on is the fact that the pub trade has been decimated and thousands of staff turned out of work.

Back when the ban came in, me and Mrs Bucko were working for a pub company / brewery as relief managers. We would run pubs while the managers were on holiday or pubs where there was no manager and the brewery was recruiting. For anyone unfamiliar with the trade, pubs have to remain open all year round to keep the money coming in, so folk like us run pubs in the interim where there is no manager available.

It's always been my dream to run my own local boozer. If you don't have the money to buy a gaff then you can do what we were trying to do and manage one for a pubco until you have the funds. We started working for pubs within the company, me as an assistant manager and Mrs Bucko as a cook. Once we got noticed we were put on the relief managers training course and eventually became reliefs.

We travelled around a lot during that time, running pubs all over the north and the midlands. We ran all sorts from chavvy dives to fancy pub restaurants.

During the two to three years we did it I had some of the best and worst times of my life. I could tell you some stories, weather you want to hear about pissed up police functions, dear old ladies birthday meals or hideous fights with groups of chavs that get the riot police involved, I have them all, but that's for another day.

The endgame was to do the relief for a while and then get a pub of our own to manage, eventually buying one for ourselves.

Than the smoking ban came.

We never really believed it would happen at first, we just thought the talk would all blow over and things would go back to normal. One day we were called into a meeting and told it was going ahead and the government had set a date. Thwaites, the company we worked for, had set aside three million pounds for the purposes of building smoking shelters, training the staff in the new regulations and a huge PR exercise to let all our customers know what was happening.

They told us Carlsberg / Tetley, a much larger company had set aside ten times that amount for the same purposes.

I kicked off a little about this and asked why we weren't all pooling this money together and using it to fight the ban. I was told that nobody wanted to do that because the ban was a huge opportunity if handled right.

The company line was that smokers were in the minority and they were keeping many more non smokers out of the pubs. After the ban, the lost trade from smokers would be quickly recouped and then some, by all the non smokers that were going to start visiting pubs.

At the time I didn't foresee the wholesale destruction of the pub trade, I was personally angry because one day I wanted to own a pub and I wanted to welcome smokers. I certainly didn't want the Government telling me otherwise.

I didn't last another year in the trade. It wasn't long before Thwaites sold half of their managed house stock and I could see the end of the road for my career. I quit the pub trade the January following the ban and started an office job for a company I still work for. Within the following year, Thwaites sold the rest of their managed estate and the tenants began handing their keys in at the rate of 30 pubs per week.

When you're working in that kind of environment you don't get much time to yourself. Whenever possible, me and Mrs Bucko would get together with my parents and my sister and her husband, go to the local pub and play pool.

My dad is the only non smoker in the group and after the ban he would come and join us outside if the weather was nice, and if it wasn't we would take turns to go out for a fag so he was never on his own. After a while my mums legs started to get quite bad and it became difficult for her to keep going outside to smoke.

My sister bought a pool table for their back room and I bought one shortly after for our spare bedroom. We both also bought dart boards and my folks bought a Wii. When we get together now we do it at one of our houses. Theres pool and darts, the booze is cheap and we can smoke as much as we want.

That boozer we used to go to closed eventually. Then it opened again. Then it closed. It's open again now. We have been drinking there for years. The same chap had it for a long time and then it passed to one of the long serving staff when he left. Since the ban it has gone through five managers that I am aware of.

So yes Cameron, the smoking ban is a huge success if what you set out to do is close all the pubs, ruin peoples careers, throw staff out of work and create a society where non smokers can no longer coexist with smokers in peace.

Big success.

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