The fears of Germany's bar owners have become reality, as the first official statistics revealed a sharp drop in revenue since the state smoking bans took effect last year.
Apparently, cigarettes go better with beer than food
Bars and pubs, whose main business is selling beverages, have been hit hardest by the new smoking bans, according to statistics released by the Federal Statistical Office on Friday, June 6. Eateries, restaurants and cafes faired better.
In the fourth quarter of 2007, revenue dropped by 14.1 percent more than the previous year for bars located in states with smoking bans. Those in states without bans collected only 8.8 percent less than during the same period in 2006.
"The majority of the guests appreciate the smoking ban when they're eating," Julius Wagner from the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga) told AP news agency. He added that sales suffered in particular in smaller pubs that aren't able to offer a separate smoking room.
The association has said it advocates making exceptions to the ban for one-room pubs. Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is slated to examine the matter this coming week.
Industry already plagued with financial woes
Baden-Wuerttemberg and Lower Saxony were the first states to introduce smoking bans in August 2007, with Hesse following in October.
Sales in beverage-oriented pubs and bars in states with smoking bans dropped by 9.8 in the third quarter of 2007, 3 percent more than in the rest of the country.
An additional nine states implemented smoking bans at the beginning of 2008. Though a first-quarter loss of 4.6 percent was registered for pubs and bars in the 14 states with bans, the statistical office said a comparison with the other two states was not possible.
Restaurants and eateries in states with smoking bans recorded a 0.8 loss compared to the first quarter last year.
Dehoga has said that gastronomic revenues have already been slipping over the past several years, due to a 2007 increase in value-added tax, higher beer prices and soaring energy costs.