Mpls.bars brace for ban

by Mohamad Elmasry

Bars on the University’s Minneapolis campus are preparing for a smoking ban that will go into effect March 31.

The ban will prohibit smoking in all public facilities in Minneapolis, said City Council member Paul Zerby, Ward 2, who represents the University and surrounding areas.

Some bar owners said they expect the local smoking ban to hurt business and are taking steps to counter any negative effects.

Stub & Herbs owner Sue Jeffers said she obtained a band license for live musical performances. She said she hopes the performances will make up for some of the business she expects to lose.

“I have to find a way to replace that (lost business),” Jeffers said. She also plans to add an outdoor patio to accommodate smokers, she said.

Grandma’s Saloon & Grill owner Brian Daugherty said he has invested in a new sound system and a new lights and special effects system. He said he’s “raising the bar on the bar.”

Zerby said he disagrees with the assumption that the ban will hurt Minneapolis businesses.

“I understand the concern that the small-business owners have,” he said. “But the evidence in other cities is that it has not really harmed the bars.”

The City Council established a task force to help bars transition through the change, he said.

The smoking ban task force developed an advertising campaign to help businesses cope with the ban, said John Dybvig, who sits in on task force meetings and is an aide to City Council member Scott Benson, Ward 11.

The three-month-long campaign will begin when the ban takes effect. A series of television, radio, print and billboard advertisements will emphasize that Minneapolis bars and restaurants will be better after the ban, Dybvig said.

But Blarney Pub and Grill owner Mike Mulrooney said he is not convinced the ban will affect business.

“Is it going to hurt business? I don’t know,” he said. “I’m skeptical – put it that way. It’s a wait-and-see type of deal.”

Mulrooney said he does not plan any major changes to counter the ban.

Although concerns about business and economics weigh in to the debate, health is also an issue.

Zerby said he supports the ban because a decrease in second-hand smoke will bring health benefits.

He said patrons of bars and restaurants can leave a smoky establishment but workers do not have that choice.

“To me, it’s a matter of protection of workers’ rights,” Zerby said.

John Finnegan, School of Public Health interim dean, said he thinks the ban will improve health.

“This is going to improve the health of workers,” he said. “It’s going to improve the health of patrons.”

But Jeffers said she thinks the scientific studies showing the harms of second-hand smoke inhalation are flawed.

University student Ryan Seaverson said he favors the ban and businesses should build outdoor patios for smokers.