“Three things make up a bar: alcohol, adults, cigarette smoking.” So says Steve–he wouldn’t give his last name–a manager at the Old Town. He’s reacting angrily to the statewide ban on smoking in public places that takes effect on May 1.
#PAGEBREAK#”Where are people enjoying an adult atmosphere supposed to go?” he asks.
Equally unhappy is the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, Aerie 2154. Treasurer Brian Pilon says that about 60 percent of its members smoke and the group is “highly upset” over the ban. The Eagles can’t even smoke on their backyard deck, since food is served there.
After years of battles, last December Michigan became the thirty-eighth state to forbid smoking in public places. Most of the other bans are recent, and studies of their impact on health and economics are still inconclusive. But the rationale is simple: if the state makes it harder for people to smoke, fewer will be exposed to its dangers. “I think it’s a good thing,” says Kristen Schweighoefer of the county environmental health department–who will be the chief local enforcer.
Aut Bar co-owner Keith Orr says smoking has been a dilemma for the Kerrytown area gay bar, because customers had strong feelings both pro and con. As a compromise, he and partner Martin Contreras allowed smoking only after food service ended at 11 p.m. They’re relieved the state’s resolved the issue.
Casey’s Tavern went smoke free four years ago. “Food sales went up markedly, and liquor sales went down,” says manager Paul (P.T.) Thomas.#PAGEBREAK#”Casey’s became much more of a family business.” Rene Greff of Arbor Brewing Company, which banned smoking last year, says that while Monday night happy hour business “dropped off a lot, we made up for it by doing more dinner business. We were pleasantly surprised.”
But Steve of the Old Town thinks bars with limited food offerings will be harder hit than restaurants. “How’s my tiny little shoebox of a kitchen able to compete with 300 restaurants in town?” he harrumphs. And the Eagles’ Pilon says they have been meeting with other clubs in hopes of getting the legislature to exempt fraternal organizations: “We’re a private club, and we want to set our own rules.”
At Rendez Vous Cafe on South University, owner Nizar Elawar is turning his second floor into a tobacco specialty store–one of the few businesses exempt from the ban. Customers can order takeout downstairs, carry it up, and eat while smoking hookahs and cigarettes.
“We cannot serve them. We cannot use regular plates,” Elawar says. “But they can use paper plates.”