Still complaints about smoking ban
Three out of four restaurateurs in Belgium want the Federal Government to look again at the smoking ban
2 January 2008 - Three out of four restaurateurs in Belgium want the Federal Government to look again at the smoking ban effecting establishments that serve food. A survey carried out on behalf of the Independent Union of Self-employed People NSZ found that around half of those questioned had seen their turnover drop since the smoking ban was brought in last year.
A total of 500 restaurant-owners from across Belgium were questioned as part of the survey. The NSZ spokeswoman Christine Matteeuws told journalists that "customers prefer to go to establishments where they can still smoke".
Smoking is still allowed in cafés and bars deemed to only be serving snacks.
However, the legal definition of what is a snack throws up some strange anomalies.
For example, a hearty meal of spaghetti bolognaise is considered to be a snack, while a plate of chips is deemed to be a meal.
The NSZ calls for a re-evaluation of the ban. However, it is against a blanket ban on smoking across the hospitality industry, as is the case in the UK, Ireland and parts of the United States.
The Belgian Association of Restaurant Chains Bemora reports that many smokers are now leaving its members' establishments straight after their main course.
However, a Bemora survey also reveals that the majority of people working in restaurants are in favour of the ban.
Meanwhile, the Flemish hospitality industry federation Horeca Vlaanderen says that it would prefer to wait for this year's VAT figures from the industry before calling for a re-evaluation of the smoking ban. More families and non-smokers
There have been fewer reservations at the country's restaurants during the festive season.
Increased breath-testing as part of the anti-drink driving campaign has persuaded many people to enjoy there festive meal at home.
The NSZ also reports that the profile of the typical restaurant-goer has changed over the past year.
Fewer smokers and fewer groups of friends or colleagues are eating in the country's restaurants.
Their places have been taken by a growing number of non-smokers and families groups.