Barnsley, UK - Enforcement action was expected today against a pub landlady who tried to sidestep the smoking ban by exploiting a legal loophole. Kerry Fenton, landlady at the Cutting Edge in Worsbrough, Barnsley, turned the pub's tap room into a "smoking research centre", where people could smoke if they filled in a questionnaire.
It included questions such as how many cigarettes people smoke, and whether they like a smoky atmosphere in pubs.
The idea was dreamed up by pub regular James Martin, a 40-year-old Sheffield printer, who saw that part two, item nine of the Smoke-free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulation 2007 sets out conditions for research into smoking. The regulations state that a "designated room in a research or testing facility" does not have to be smoke-free "whilst it is being used for any research or tests".
But Barnsley Council officials have pointed out that the Cutting Edge is "clearly not a research or test facility" and therefore not exempt from the smoking ban.
Enforcement officers were expected to visit the premises in Bank End Road today and take action, which could lead to a maximum penalty of £2,500.
The ruling will be a blow for non-smoker Ms Fenton, who claims trade has doubled since the "centre" was set up on Friday, May 8. She said: "Before Friday we were lucky to get 10 people in at a weekend. On Friday we had 29, on Saturday 31 and on Sunday 46."
Signs on the door of the tap room, which has its own bar and is completely separate from the rest of the pub, indicate the place is a "Designated Smoking Room."
Ms Fenton, 36, also asks smokers to put 50p in a charity box and part of the money goes to a cancer research fund. The landlady says she has not taken legal advice on the scheme - instead relying on Mr Martin's interpretation of the rules - but she believes that she has complied with the regulations by making sure the smoking room is entirely separate from the lounge.
The "research centre", however, has not found favour with the pub's owners Punch Taverns. A spokesman for the company said: "Punch does not endorse this activity and will not be rolling it out across any of our other sites. Our licensee will be advised against undertaking this activity."
Customers at the Cutting Edge, however, say they are all in favour of the smoking room. Regular Christopher Pick said: "I think it's brilliant. Before this I was standing outside no matter what the weather was like. I don't know whether they can get away with it but there you are."
Non-smoker Rob Hudson, who has been coming to the Cutting Edge for 35 years, said: "I would rather come into a full pub than an empty room. I have the choice of the tap room and the lounge and I come in here."