Restos, cafes feel the heat of smoking ban

National 3 minutes, 15 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

WHILE the air in town seems easier to walk in and breathe because of the smoking ban, the sighs of restaurant and cafe owners are heard throughout with most of them suffering notable losses in their patronage, the first week of the ban.

The coffee culture in Brunei is evident over the weekends in popular spots such as Gadong or Kiulap, but since the smoking ban, which prohibits restaurant patrons to smoke within the restaurant premises, most have opted to go for less obvious restaurants, such as little coffee shops, small unknown restaurants, and so on.

"During my tea break or after work, I'll go to a secluded restaurant at the end of Gadong, or Kiulap or maybe even Bandar, because the restaurant owners there don't stop me from smoking. I know it is against the law, but I feel more secure knowing that the police, or whoever, will be doing the inspections, will go to a small restaurant," said an accountant who works in Gadong.

"My friends and I used to go to the cafes in Centrepoint on a Thursday or Saturday night, but now with the ban in place, we go somewhere less obvious where we can still smoke because the owners let us smoke," said an administrative secretary who works in Kiulap.

Jack Tan, Administrative and Finance Manager of Coffeezone has said that from the past week that the smoking ban has been in place, he has noticed that about 30 per cent of his usual customers have stopped coming. "About 40 per cent of loyal customers are smokers, and that is why we have an outside seating area, but now with the ban, there is no point to have outside dining at the restaurant," he said.

He added that a good compromise, for restaurants, that could be looked into would be to have a smoking section at the restaurant outside, away from the non-smoking crowd.

Jordan Lau, manager of Cafe Au Lait said that the outside area is meant for smokers, and though it is hard for him to give an estimate as to how many patrons have stopped going to the cafe, he says that the usual loyal customers have stopped coming. "The smoking customers, are going to other restaurants and cafes which are more lenient, meaning that they don't mind their patrons smoking in their restaurants," he said.

"I think the smoking ban is affecting the cafes more than the restaurants, because for us, we are fortunate to have customers who understand and have been accommodating," said Priscilla Boyd, manager of Manjaro Restaurant in Kiulap. She added that the ban has so far not affected her business and it has also helped her to cut down on her own nicotine intake. "I have been trying to quit for a while so I do notice that I smoke less, but it would be great for the smoking customers to have a small, well-ventilated, area in the back where they could smoke," she said.

One restaurant who strongly feels the loss of business due to the smoking ban is located in Batu Satu, where they said that 30 per cent of their restaurant patrons have stopped coming. "What would help business is if there could be a smoking area for the customers who want to smoke," said the restaurant representative.

A spokesperson, from Italian restaurant, Fratini's says that they notice that there are less customers visiting the restaurant since the ban, and that it will hurt the business for the owner. Asked about the smaller restaurants being less obvious for inspection, Jack says that he feels the government is fair and that if the big and popular cafes and restaurants are being inspected, then he's positive that the smaller restaurants have an equal chance of being inspected as well.

The Brunei Times