To the best of my knowledge JD Wetherspoon was the first pub chain to ban smoking.
In May 2005 the company announced that 60 of its 650 pubs were to go smoke free with the rest falling in line by May 2006.
This decision was later rescinded owing to falling profits (JD Wetherspoon ends no-smoking trial). At the time however chairman Tim Martin said:
"Half of smokers want to give up and 25% of people smoke and they'll still be able to smoke in our beer gardens, albeit not an enticing prospect in the middle of January and February."
Ironically, the company's smoking policy was taken out of its hands when the Government introduced a comprehensive smoking ban in 2007.
Now the days when smokers can light up in the company's beer gardens may be numbered too. Last night I received an email from a smoker who reported:
This evening I visited a pub which belongs to Wetherspoon. I went outside for a smoke only to find no smoking signs in the front and rear grounds. When I questioned this I was informed that they were complying with the law that said 70 per cent of outdoor space must be for non smokers.
Is this right? I have never come across this before and feel that once again the smoker is being made to feel less than welcome. I will never visit this establishment again but wonder if indeed this is law.
Unless I've missed something the law says no such thing but it wouldn't surprise me if an outdoor smoking ban was on the company's agenda. In 2005 Tim Martin told the BBC:
"An increasing percentage of the population are giving up smoking and a significant number of people are staying away from pubs and restaurants because they are too smoky."
He said the firm had pioneered non-smoking areas in its outlets, but felt "it is the right time to go one step further".
See Wetherspoon pubs ban smoking (BBC News).
Perhaps he feels the time is now right "to go one step further" and ban smoking in beer gardens.
I haven't revealed the name of the pub or its location because I want to check the facts with Wetherspoon on Monday. I'll let you know what, if anything, they have to say on the matter.
Update: Report concerning a different Wetherspoon pub – Customers criticise Stevenage pub’s outdoor smoking ban (May 2014).
Meanwhile it seems the company isn't too keen on the use of e-cigarettes either:
Eddie Gershon a spokesman for Wetherspoons, said: “Wetherspoons for the past four years has not allowed e-cigarettes in its pubs for the simple reason that, in a very busy pub, it’s very hard for staff to distinguish between an e-cigarette and a lit cigarette.”