Minneapolis OKs smoking ban

All Minneapolis bars and restaurants will have to be smoke free by March 31.

Lacey Crisp

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak challenged all bars and restaurants in Minneapolis on Tuesday to go smoke-free before March 31.

“I’ll lead the first smoke-free bus tour of bars,” Rybak said. “If you want to sell a beer to the mayor, go smoke-free.”

All bars and restaurants will have to be smoke-free by March 31 in accordance with a ban passed Friday by the Minneapolis City Council.

Bloomington passed a broader smoking ban last week. St. Paul will reintroduce a smoking ordinance proposal today.

At a ceremony hosted by Bryant-Lake Bowl, Rybak signed the Minneapolis ordinance in front of key proponents of the ban.

Minneapolis City Councilman Paul Zerby, 2nd Ward, who represents areas surrounding the University’s Minneapolis campus, introduced the ban and attended the ceremony.

“This is a great day for all of us who live, work and play here,” Zerby said.

Zerby said he decided to introduce the bill because “(smoking) is a very real health problem and we have a great opportunity to do something about it.”

Council members are now urging Hennepin County commissioners to pass an identical bill. Commissioner Gail Dorfman was a member of the task force that wrote Minneapolis’ ban.

“I think we’re well on our way to a statewide ban,” Dorfman said.

Following in the footsteps of Bloomington, Minneapolis has banned all forms of inhaled smoke in places of employment. Unlike Bloomington, Minneapolis has not banned smoking within 25 feet of doorways, allowing smokers to use outdoor patios.

Cities such as Duluth, Minn., and Madison, Wis., already have smoking bans in place. Six states have also passed bans.

Bar managers like Sue Jeffers are wondering what they can do to keep their clientele next April. Jeffers, who manages Stub & Herbs in Stadium Village, is considering building an outdoor patio for smokers.

“The first casualty to the smoking ban will be the floral shop next door,” Jeffers said. “I own it and am going to turn it into a patio.”

Jeffers said she is very disappointed by the vote.

“It’s going to cost jobs and businesses,” she said. “Whose health is that going to save?”

Nearly 40 percent of people ages 18 to 24 smoke at least once in a while, according to a 2004 survey by the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco and other groups.

But council members were not arguing the health effects of smoking. Most were concerned about the effect a ban would have on small bars.

“There are the economic issues and then there are the personal liberty questions,” said Councilman Donald Samuels, 3rd Ward.

The only vote against the ban came from Councilman Barret Lane, 13th Ward.

“If we are going to have a ban, we need a ban that is a compromise and reflects a balance, and does as little damage to small businesses as possible,” Lane said at Friday’s meeting.

Zerby said the ban is very important to everyone and he is going to make every effort to help the local businesses adjust to the ban.

“There have been a few things in my career as a council member that I am proud to be a part of, and this is one of them,” Zerby said.

Stub & Herbs customers have mixed feelings about the ban. Most said they were surprised it passed.

“I think it’s great,” said Desdamona Racheli. “It will make me go out to the bars more.”

Sara Nelson said the ban would be bad for business because most of her friends only smoke when they go out to bars.

“I think bars are going to lose money,” Nelson said.

Nelson said bar owners should be allowed to decide whether they will allow smoking.

Because of their outdoor patio, the managers at Sally’s Saloon and Eatery were not worried about the ban either.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Ryan Cole, assistant manager. “It’s a great thing for our workers.”

Fellow assistant manager Nick Schinler was not as optimistic.

“On principle it’s a good thing, but it needs to be a statewide ban,” Schinler said. “I guess I’ll have to quit by March then.”

Rep. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, sponsored the failed state bill. He said the city ordinances will strengthen statewide efforts for a smoking ban.

“All those cities that have passed a ban will be clamoring to even the playing field,” Latz said.

St. Paul will revisit the issue today. Mayor Randy Kelly vetoed the first attempt at a ban. Councilman Dave Thune introduced the bill, and is optimistic about having a second chance.

“We have made the changes the mayor requested,” Thune said. “Now we are in concert with Minneapolis and Bloomington.”

Thune said the council has read several studies about cities and states that currently have smoking bans, and bars were hurt for a short amount of time.

Thune said he doesn’t blame bar owners for being scared, because their livelihoods are at stake.

“Does anyone actually think that the college community will stop drinking because they can’t smoke in a bar?” Thune said.