The Black Friar has gone smoke-free.

Wandering past the Black Friar on my way home yesterday, I saw a sign saying “A Smoke-Free Pub” – it seems they’ve banned smoking from the place.

It’s an interesting choice: the Black Friar (New Bridge Street) is a classic, traditional City boozer, with a pleasant exterior and fabulous interior. It has a great big paved area outside where people could smoke unmolested by buses and unsplashed by inconsiderate motorists. It’s also very badly ventilated, especially in its jewel-like back room which often felt and smelled like its marble and mirrors had been built immediately on top of the Devil’s own bonfire.

This is exactly the sort of destination boozer which needs to become non-smoking voluntarily if there’s any chance at all of averting the swingeing, unnecessary smoking ban which seems to be on the cards. If the free market can demonstrate that it can provide customers and staff with a genuine choice of smoky or non-smoky then that seems a sound way forward. And, let’s face it, if the polls are right and there really is an overwhelming public demand for smoke-free drinking environments, the market should be able to provide them. It’s not often I say this, but well done Nicholson’s.