STAFF REPORTER THE two restaurateurs' associations of Majorca agreed yesterday to plan a lockout in protest against the economic fallout from the total smoking ban introduced at the start of the year.

Representatives from around 100 businesses from the hostelry sector were present at a meeting held at the head offices of the Sa Nostra banking group in Palma.

Both the small-to-medium-sized business association of Majorca (Pimem) and the Balearic Business Federation (CAEB) are in favour of organising a protest march and, amongst other measures, are urging proprietors of bars, cafés and restaurants to switch off cigarette dispensing machines.

Pimem leader Juan Cabrera and his counterpart in CAEB, Pilar Carbonell explained that their increasingly angry members want to drive home the message to the government of how the smoking ban has been the final straw for an industry struggling to survive during the economic crisis.

The associations will be meeting again this week to decide a timetable for industrial action which Cabrera and Carbonell said would be “massive.” “The government just wants to wash its hand of the responsibility for our economic misery,” said Cabrera. “People are genuinely angry about it.” Calculations by the two associations confirm that the smoking ban has prompted income losses of between 30 and 40 percent in bars and cafeterias, and of between 20 and 25 percent in restaurants. Such has been the support for a strategy to make their economic woes public, Carbonell was able to confidently declare after yesterday's meeting that CAEB and Pimem “had already taken” the decision to launch a lockout. All that remained to be done at future meetings, she said, was to thrash out the timing of industrial action.

Representatives from the restaurateurs' associations apparently intend to meet local politicians to ask to what extent their plight can be furthered in Madrid.