New rules on smoking in bars

The Chamber of Representatives' Heath Select Committee has approved a number of changes to the law governing smoking in bars and cafés. From January 1 2010, smoking will only be allowed in bars, pubs and cafés that are used more or less exclusively for drinking and socialising. At present, establishments serving food are also able to allow smoking, proving that income from bar meals didn’t exceed 33% of turnover.
However, the new rules do make an exception for food stuffs that can be kept for more than three months such as crisps, peanuts, salami and pre-packed frankfurters such as Zwan sausages.

The new rules have come about as a result of a compromise between the Flemish Christian democrats on the one hand and the Flemish liberals and Francophone socialists on the other.
The Flemish Christian democrats had favoured a total ban, while the Francophone Socialists and Flemish liberal stressed that a total ban would have made things even worse for an industry already badly hit by the recession.

Eleven members of the Committee voted for the changes, three (Flemish nationalist, far-right and greens) voted against.

Existing law against the “arm’s length principle

A fine imposed on the owner of a restaurant in the town of Mol in Antwerp province for allowing people to smoke in his restaurant has been overturned.

The Court of Appeal in Antwerp  ruled that the current law restricting smoking in bars and restaurants contravenes the so-called “arm’s length principle”, as people are allowed to smoke in bars and cafés that serve snacks, but not in restaurants.

The court said that this goes against the principle of free and fair competition.