Gay bars in Soho welcomed the idea of a smoking ban when MPs passed a bill prohibiting it earlier this year, and now Westminster Council has taken another step by ensuring the smokers won’t just be moved outside.
The local authority of Westminster contains many gay venues which will have to ensure there customers no longer light up from next year, but the Council wants to make sure the new law doesn’t result in customers smoking in the street.
A spokesman from Soho Clubs and Bars who own some of the West End’s top gay attractions said: “Soho Clubs and Bars feel that the venues within our estate offer such high quality food, beverage and entertainment that we’re best placed to weather any difficulties that might arise from this new legislation.”
However, there is a risk that smokers will stand outside a club or bar to smoke, the Council says this will cause problems for local residents and passers-by.
The potential problems caused by smokers outside premises in the West End has been raised by Westminster City Council in its response to the Department of Health’s consultation on the introduction of the smoking ban.
Noise complaints rose by 1,000 per cent in Edinburgh after the smoking ban was introduced in Scotland.
With many pubs and clubs in Westminster being in residential areas the potential for inconvenience to residents caused by smokers is high.
With this in mind Westminster City Council has asked for: “…the power to prohibit smoking outside of certain premises.”
According to American Cancer Society figures, double the amount of gay people smoke compared to heterosexuals. Smoking is one of the biggest killers in the gay community.
As well as concerns over the adverse impact of noise, there are also worries about the impact on crime and disorder.
With such a concentration of bars and clubs, policing the area will be made that much harder with people congregating outside in the early hours of the evening.
Councillor Audrey Lewis, Cabinet Member for Community Protection, said: “There are already problems outside some licensed premises caused by people standing outside drinking and creating considerable noise for neighbours.
“We are anxious to avoid this being greatly increased by smokers. And while clubs are responsible for the behaviour of the people inside their premises we don’t want to find substantial numbers of them congregating outside where there is the likelihood of extra work for the police.”