Bar owners face fine for flouting Dutch smoking ban
Dutch prosecutors sought a 1,200 euro fine Friday for the owners of a small bar in the country's first-ever court case for flouting a smoking ban imposed on the hospitality industry.THE HAGUE - Brothers Gerhard and Ronald Sannes, owners of Cafe de Kachel in Groningen in the north of the country, appeared before a district court in the same city where they admitted one count of contravening the oft-flouted law.
"We asked for a fine of 1,200 euros and a probation period of one year, during which time the bar will be closed for a month for any further contravention," prosecution spokeswoman Kerstin Smit told AFP.
The bar had been caught contravening the ban on six occasions, she said.
Gerhard Sannes told AFP the ban, which came into effect last July, created an unfair competition advantage for bigger establishments.
"We have a small bar with no extra space in which to build a smoking section. We have no staff (whom the smoking ban is supposed to protect)," he told AFP by telephone.
Sannes said Cafe de Kachel took the ashtrays off its tables for six weeks in July and August and saw turnover plummet by 60 percent.
"The earnings were so low that we just couldn't do it anymore. We had to put the ashtrays back. By October, turnover was back to its previous level."
There has been growing resistance to the ban imposed last July, as small bar and restaurant owners complain they are bleeding clients and revenue.
A grouping of some 1,200 small hospitality industry operators opposed to the effects of the ban have created a communal money pot from which to pay fines.
Tougher penalties were introduced in October, with inspectors given the power to issue on-the-spot fines of 300 euros for a first offence, followed by 600 euros for the second.
The Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority said in a statement this month that about 2,500 of the country's 11,000 bars were flouting the smoking ban.
Around a hundred people converged in Groningen from around the country Friday to support the owners of Cafe de Kachel.
Judgment will be delivered on February 20, said Smit.
Less than a quarter of the Dutch population of 16.4 million are smokers.
AFP / Expatica