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Smoking ban sending Dannevirke Hotel broke

18 July 2005

Smoking ban sending Dannevirke Hotel broke.

Dannevirke’s Masonic Hotel is a victim of the smoking ban introduced into bars on 10 December 2004. In the six months following the introduction of the ban, profits have plunged $115k in comparison to the corresponding six-month period from 10 December 2003.

The Masonic Hotel unfortunately, has not been a beneficiary of the flood of non-smokers the present government and anti-smoking factions assured the hotel industry, would flock to bars, once the smoking ban came into force.

The smoking ban has devastated the lives of Mark and Raewyn Payne, owners of the Masonic, a business they took over two years ago. In the period prior to the ban, they had a thriving business, with two full-time and three part-time employees.

Six months into the ban and they are approaching the point where it will no longer be financially viable to keep the Masonic Hotel doors open. Mark and Raewyn, with insufficient turnover to afford to pay wages, had no option but to let their staff go.

Of the Masonic Hotels two former full time employees, one has found employment in Hamilton and the other remains in Dannevirke, unemployed and on a benefit.

Mark and Raewyn are now the Masonic Hotels only staff. In a room behind the bar, they have installed a bed.

“One of us will take a nap where possible while the other tends the bar”, say Raewyn, “meaning we are more or less existing just to work, with little free time to ourselves and no social life”.

Whereas many hotel owners have lessened the impact of the ban by creating outdoor smoking areas, this has not been an option for the Paynes.

The Masonic Hotel’s physical location and architecture prevents any possibility of there being a garden bar or outside area where people can smoke.

“Even if we could have an outdoor smoking area”, says Raewyn, “winter in Dannevirke would still kept patrons away”.

“It is the non-smokers who are complaining more about the smoking ban than the smokers”, says Mark, “as their smoking mates rarely come to the pub anymore”.

A non-smoking patron said “Our pubs used to be the towns social centre, but not any more, as our smoking mates rarely turn up, and when they do, they spend most their time outside, and us non-smokers have head out there with them”.

“Dannevirke pub goers have been fantastic towards us through this six months of no smoking and we have had zero trouble”, says Raewyn, “as we rarely see many of them anymore”.

The Smokefree legislation in its present form makes the outlook for Mark and Raewyn Payne and their Masonic Hotel very bleak.

“We are stuck between that old cliché ‘a rock and a hard place”, says Mark. “If we continue to comply with the ban, we will go broke, and if we break the ban, the authorities will most likely take our licence away, forcing us to close”.

“No matter which option we take”, says Raewyn, “it’s inevitable the Masonic will have to close. Were we poor business managers and had brought this situation upon ourselves, then sobeit, but we have done everything right to make this business a success’.

“We will lose our business simply to satisfy the whims of a handful of politicians and ‘anti-everything’ people”, says Mark.

The damage the Smokefree legislation has inflicted upon Mark and Raewyn Payne and their business is not an isolated incident.

“There are many ‘Marks and Raewyns’ out there”, says WIN Party spokesperson Dave Clarke, “couples who have grafted hard to create a thriving business and build a secure future and who are now forced to watch it all dissolve before them”.

Anti-smoking groups such as ASH and the Smokefree Coalition say the smoking ban is a success, that most licensees are complying with the legislation, and that in general, the ban has had little adverse affect financially, upon the hotel industry.

“I challenge Becky Freeman of ASH and Leigh Sturgiss of the Coalition to visit the Masonic Hotel in Dannevirke”, says Clarke, “and to tell Mark and Raewyn Payne that the ban has not hurt their business”.


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