SMOKING: THE BACKLASH: Publican spends EUR150k ripping off roof so punters can carry on puffing.
A FRUSTRATED publican is beating the smoking ban by ripping off the roof of his bar.
Ambitious Tony Ward spent EUR500,000 renovating the top floor of trendy Co Louth pub Redz in 1999 - and another EUR150,000 demolishing the roof when he realised his customers had nowhere to light up.
He said yesterday: "Some have said I am completely mad taking the roof off a building that was only built five years ago.
"But now that it is finished I am delighted at how it has turned out."
Drogheda publican Tony, 41, claimed his business plummeted by 30 per cent when the smoke ban hit most of Ireland's workplaces on March 29.
Now he hopes to claw that business back during the spring and summer when punters can puff away in what looks and feels like the inside of a pub - only without the roof.
Customers pay for their drinks at a full, enclosed bar, where smoking is still banned, and take them out to the open air "garden".
Fully roofed before, it is now partly covered by glass to protect smokers from the wind and rain.
It took six weeks to take the roof off which was then taken to a dump. The bar can accommodate around 100 people and has six wooden benches, gas heaters, flowers, waterproof speakers and built-in drains to take the rain away.
The floor is fully tiled, under which there are timber floors, a rubber compound, felt and an inch of cement.
All very well in summer, but when winter hits, punters might not be so keen to light up.
Tony, who has owned Redz since 1990, said: "My pub is landlocked like many others in Ireland and people kept on asking me if I could supply them with a smoking area.
"I wanted to see if the ban would affect trade and if people abided by it.
"We're on a main street here and people don't want to smoke there.
"It was a bit counterproductive doing that building and then knocking it.
"But takings went down about 30 per cent so I decided to go ahead with it. We've put in drains to make it completely waterproof.
"It was open last weekend and people thought it was great, saying it was the first time they could sit in a real pub again and smoke properly. We're living in Ireland and in the winter, I don't think it's fair asking 30 per cent of the decent tax-paying, voting public of Ireland to huddle under trees like sheep.
"And while they're doing that their non-smoking friends get frustrated at the breaks in conversation and craic.
"So could they [the Government] not come up with an indoor ventilated, staff-free room if necessary to facilitate everyone?
"Give us back our social life please."
SKY'S THE LIMIT: Publican Tony Ward in his open air pub Redz, and left, how it was before ban