Breweries and pub chains blame the smoking ban for encouraging drinkers to stay at home rather than visit their locals as the British Beer and Pubs Association reports that 27 pubs are now closing every week, the fastest rate in history. The Laurel Pub Company collapsed this week placing 388 pubs in administration although a rescue deal orchestrated by property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz will ensure the brands survive. Alastair Beveridge, of administrators Kroll, said low consumer confidence combined with the smoking ban had resulted in difficult trading conditions across the leisure sector. Drinks analyst Mark Brumby estimates that the smoking ban has cost between 3% and 4% of sales, or about £600m, across the country. Traditional “wet-led” local pubs are the worst-affected. Some city boozers, he says, could go down by 25% and never recover. The Independent 29/03/08 page 16