From the 1st of July 2008, a smoking ban was imposed on all pubs and restaurants in the Netherlands. During the summer months, most smokers were happy to make use of the outside terraces, particularly on a balmy evening. But as winter approaches, many pubs are defying the ban and allowing their patrons to smoke inside. In some towns, publicans have collectively agreed to ignore the ban, with many smaller places struggling to make ends meet due to a decline in customers. Such resistance would appear to be gathering momentum, with other pubs around the country also turning a blind eye to those who smoke inside. The health minister, however, has indicated that he will take a tough stance on places that do not uphold the law. But with the threat of a 300 euro fine for an inital offence, it seems that many publicans were willing to take that risk. However, through unfair competition laws, pubs may face fines of up to several thousands of euros, with repeat offenders facing (temporary) closure of their establishment.
Last night, we decided to go for a pub meal at one of our locals (but not a regular haunt). Of the 25 or so people that were there, ALL but about 4 people were smoking. Although there were no ashtrays on the bars or tables, people were using the candle holders. And given that almost everyone that walked in was holding a cigarette packet, it would seem that the word had got around that this pub is ignoring the ban. After experiencing several months of smoke free bliss, it was just horrible to sit there in the smokey atmosphere, particularly as we were eating. Had we not ordered food, I think we would have left. And if they continue to allowing smoking, I will do my best to avoid going back. Fortunately, we were not there long as we had another event to go to, at a pub down the road where smoking is NOT allowed. And although the place was filled with students, there were also many other patrons enjoying the smoke free atmosphere. Thanks Cambrinus for upholding the ban - we will be back!