Safety warning over marquees

PUBS and bars in Ipswich are putting customer's lives at risk by installing cheap, flammable marquees in preparation for the smoking ban, The Evening Star has learned.

PUBS and bars in Ipswich are putting customer's lives at risk by installing cheap, flammable marquees in preparation for the smoking ban, The Evening Star has learned.

From Sunday smoking will be banned in public places and many nightspots around the town are gearing up for the change by providing covered outdoor areas for smokers.

Numerous pubs and bars are investing in marquees but a Sproughton businessman claims some are flouting regulations in buying cheap imported marquees that are not fireproof.

Martin Spurling, owner of Marquee Covers and Frames, in Sproughton, said a 20ft by 10ft flame retardant marquee can cost between £1,000 and £1,500 while a non-fireproof import can be bought for a fraction of the cost - just £150.

He said: “Lots of pubs are putting up tents which are not fire retardant.

“If they are used as smoking rooms there is a big hazard there.

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“Until the first one goes up and kills somebody, nothing will be done.”

Mr Spurling said his company sells both types of marquees although the non-fireproof type should only be used for private functions rather than public events.

He said many landlords are put off by the hefty price tag of the fireproof marquees but added that he does not sell the cheaper version if he suspects it may be for public use.

Divisional Officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue service, Kevin Burton, said: “Responsible persons putting up structures to be used as a smoking area should ensure they are fit for that purpose and the necessary safety checks have been carried out."

A spokeswoman for Suffolk fire service added that those found breaching regulations face punishment.

She said: “The law is there to protect the public and people using pubs and clubs.

“We would urge pub owners and landlords to always buy the model that meets relevant standards.

“If they don't we would like to know about it so we can follow it up and take action if necessary.”

Visitors to pubs will also come under the spotlight from Sunday with council officers visiting premises to check nobody is flouting the ban.

Do you think businesses are prepared for the smoking ban? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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