The call by Westminster Liberal Democrats for Westminster City Council to ban smoking for outside dining and drinking as a condition for licensing additional tables has been picked up by the Local Government Association, been discussed in the House of Lords and resulted in the Planning Minister, Christopher Pincher announcing there will be no outright alfresco dining smoking ban but a compromise which sees restaurants providing outdoor non-smoking and smoking sections.
We greatly welcome hospitality operators applying for more pavement space. The simplest approach to this, with so many other issues on people minds, is to treat outdoor dining space in the same way as indoor space as a condition of granting licenses. This will help to improve the health of Westminster residents and visitors, protect hospitality employees and make outdoor dining more comfortable especially for families. The government’s compromise of outdoor dining space for smokers and another space for non-smokers adds to rather than reduces red tape, creates confusion and is simply unpractical in all but the biggest outdoor dining areas of which there aren’t many in city-centre locations such as Westminster.
What happens when the wind changes direction or when venue A’s non-smoking section backs on to venue B’s smoking section. The Government claim this decision will reduce red tape but rather than allocating some tables for smokers and others for non-smokers eliminating smoking for alfresco dining altogether sends a clearer message to the public and makes life simpler for operators.
Some restaurants have indicated they would welcome a ban on smoking in their outdoor dining spaces but need a lead from their council to ensure staff do not face abuse from those who would wish to smoke. In making outdoor dining and drinking space non-smoking Westminster City Council has an opportunity to take the lead nationally to ban smoking at all licensed outdoor events and improve the welfare of its residents.
Surely there is no better time to take action on smoking and ensure the majority can enjoy outside dining without having to endure tobacco smoke. It is hard to understand why the Government continues to facilitate smoking and dining while advising people to give up smoking.