December 25, 2010 – Some 50% of the country’s cafés and discotheques allow smoking, despite the ban for all except small, one-man operated bars, according to new figures from the food and safety inspectorate.

Since the government overturned the ban in small bars, more and more large cafes are allowing their customers to smoke.(Netherlands – smoking ban lifted in small cafes with no staff.) In June, inspectors found smoking in 28% of the bars they visited. That has now increased to 51%.

According to the Volkskrant (a national daily Dutch morning newspaper), the new government says around half of the country’s bars are smaller than 70 m2, meaning they are exempt from the ban, provided they do not employ staff. However, the Dutch catering association says the figure is closer to 25%.

Not only is there confusion about the size of bars, but bigger cafe owners say they are faced with unfair competition.

‘Since the government said it would soften the ban, the whole sector has been discussing it,’ Ben Francooy, chairman of catering workers’ union FNV Horecabond told the paper. ‘If you are going to make [the ban] more flexible, you open the door to fiddling the figures.’ In some places, cafe owners have an alarm light to alert each other if inspectors are spotted, Francooy said.