Clamp down on pubs serving food in Belgium
Three months after the introduction of the smoking ban in all pubs and cafés where meals are served the health inspection is to launch more stringent checks.Last year the Belgian Parliament approved legislation introducing a general smoking ban in all pubs, restaurants and cafés by 2014. Smoking has been banned in Belgian restaurants for several years now. At the beginning of the year the ban was extended to include pubs and similar establishments where food is served. Since January smoking has only been allowed in special separate smoking sections.
When the ban was extended the health department let it be known that its first priority was preventative action. Its inspectors would visit as many food-serving pubs as possible to make sure that the regulations relating to the smoking ban were being observed. The idea was to inform publicans and to get them on board, not to punish them. It's estimated that up to 9,000 food-serving pubs have received a visit from a health department official.
But the health department is now insisting that this period of greater tolerance is at an end. Food-serving pubs found to be flouting the ban will now be punished. Paul Vandenmeerssche told the dailies De Standaard and het Nieuwsblad: "After three months publicans should now be aware of the provisions of the law. Too few stickers won't get you a fine, but if you set out ash trays on the bar, this will not be tolerated."
Not all publicans are happy with the extension of the ban. Some claimed that they were not being given enough time in order to adapt. There were also fears of a lower turnover as smokers stayed away.
Publicans in a quandary could have opted to allow smoking, but to take food off the menu.
At present there are no figures to show how many pubs have decided to keep food on the menu and introduce a smoking ban.