By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE smoking ban which came into force on January 2 has hit bar and restaurant takings hard, according to small business organisation's Restaurant Association.

Just two weeks after the strict restrictions were introduced, the President of the Restaurant Association, Juan Cabrera, slammed the ban as a “witch hunt” and also complained that the smoking prohibition has been introduced during one of the worst periods in the history of the bar and restaurant sector.

Cabrera said that bar takings over the past two weeks have already fallen by between 30 and 50 percent while the future of an estimated 30 percent of his members' establishments is in doubt.

He also hit out at the Ministry for Health, Social Services and Equality for this week suggesting that plans by clubs, bars and restaurants to set up special smoking clubs will be deemed illegal.

What is more, an innovative way of serving smoking clients food and drink without the waiters having direct contact with the clients via a conveyor belt system is also being branded illegal by the government. “We're left in a no win situation and every idea the sector comes up with to try and respect the law while accommodating the needs of clients who smoke is ruled illegal,” he said yesterday. “This new law was drawn up in a hurry and with very little foresight,” he added and warned that his association is still in talks with lawyers here in Majorca over the legality of the new anti-smoking law.

Cabrera explained that the smoking club project is still being developed and stressed that it would comply with all the new requisites such as separate entrances to the adjacent bar or restaurant and that orders will be taken by microphone and the drinks and dishes served by conveyor belt. “The smokers, as the law requires, will be totally isolated from the non-smoking area and the staff,” he stressed. “But, due to the lack of information and foresight on behalf of the government, they are not prepared to study our proposals,” he stressed. “The hostelry and service sectors are absolutely vital to the country's economy and go hand in hand with tourism so the government has got to become more flexible over the new law or else it will cost takings and even more jobs,” he warned.

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