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WHEN the smoking ban became law in the Republic, bars were left empty as drinkers stayed away.

But last night publicans south of the border claimed the ban in Northern Ireland would not improve their business.

The Nineteenth Hole pub in Donegal has seen a drop in customers, but staff are not expecting the numbers to rise.

Liam Doherty, who works in the bar, said: "Slowly our numbers are rising as customers get used to the idea of not smoking.

"But it's not as though they've moved up North - they are just drinking outside."

Colm Kelly, Donegal county chairman of the Vinters Federation of Ireland, said: "People who frequented the pubs just don't go any more. And it's not that they've all moved to pubs in Northern Ireland. Most of them buy alcohol from off-licences and drink at home. There are many more house parties."

But publicans in the North claim they have seen a rise in drinkers yet are not worried about the ban coming in.

The Black Cat Cove in Belleek, Co Fermanagh, has seen a huge rise in customers since the ban in the South.

But they believe that even when they aren't allowed to smoke, the customers won't be going back to the Republic.

Publican Bernadette McNaulty said: "We have at least 30 to 40 regulars from the Republic. But they live so near, if they can't get a taxi, we drop them back."
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 18, 2005
Previous Article:LIGHTS OUT.. 01/04/07; Countdown begins to Ulster cigs ban.
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