The rebellion against the smoking ban looked to have been stubbed out tonight as a string of pubs which had openly defied the law backed down and put their ashtrays away.
Four Cork pubs supporting an attempted backlash against the Government were forced to retreat when issued with formal warnings and threatened with court injunctions.
The Southern Health Board confirmed it had issued notices to various pubs in the last two days, two of which were given a 4pm deadline today to comply with the law.
Gareth Kendellan, who owns Paddy the Farmers, one of Cork’s biggest pubs, took legal advice after being issued with his second formal warning.
He said: “It looks like I’ve lost the battle but I felt I had to make a stand and I did so, I don’t regret that at all.
“We got a lot of support from both smokers and non-smokers and for 24 hours at least we brought back the atmosphere that has been lost.”
Both Mr Kendellan and Danny Brogan, owner of Connie Doolan’s in Cobh, Co Cork, which has also been forced to abandon its protest, expressed disappointment at the number of landlords which actively supported the rebellion.
“It’s very hard for four or five individuals to take on the Government,” he added. “We may have been more successful as a body of 200.”
The Loft in Bantry and Ozzie’s Bar in Cork city are also now believed to be complying with the ban after being threatened with injunctions.
Landlords throughout the country had lined up to support an open defiance of the ban earlier this week which was sparked by the owners of Fibber Magee’s in Galway city.
The Licensed Vintner’s Association, which represents Dublin publicans, released figures backing industry claims of disastrous loss of earnings.
It claimed the smoking ban had resulted in the loss of 2,000 jobs in the sector and that, on average, Dublin pub sales were down by 16%.
Chief executive Donnall O’Keeffe said: “For the first time, independent research amongst the licensed trade confirms the harsh reality of the economic impact of the smoking ban on our members.
“The majority of Dublin publicans have described the current business climate as being very unfavourable and without a doubt, the ban has compounded this state of affairs.”
The survey was carried out amongst 277 pub owners or managers, representing around half of the Dublin trade.
Health Minister Micheál Martin said the Government would use every means at its disposal to uphold the law while Justice Minister Michael McDowell warned that any publicans caught breaking the law risk losing their liquor licences.
As the dispute appeared to be drawing to a close, the Galway publicans who triggered the protest also backed down after being threatened with a high court injunction.