Give me one bar, with smoke and a beer

The smoking ban offends bar and restaurant owners’ econ-omic interests and freedom.

I generally don’t smoke. I do enjoy a fine cigar once in a while, but it’s a very rare delight with the money a student earns. I would even say I have a certain amount of dislike for overly smoky bars and restaurants.

When the smoking ban hits, I don’t think my habits will change at all, unless the ban causes some of my favorite establishments to close. Is that a possibility? There are some studies that show it could happen.

The most cited of these is the New York Nightlife Association impact study that showed the smoking ban in New York had a negative effect on business. Among the findings was that 76 percent of bars and nightclubs experienced a decline in customers. As any economics student will tell you, fewer customers equals less money, and less money means somebody gets fired. One-third of bars and nightclubs reduced their staffs by an average of 16 percent.

The study was not perfect, but there are others. In Maine, where smoking is banned in restaurants and restaurant-bars, 15 percent of those businesses saw a decline in sales. This again lead to both lost jobs and lower salaries. That same story is true for our northern friends, as New Brunswick has had adverse effects from its smoking ban. More than 70 percent of nightlife businesses saw decreased alcohol sales.

I have seen studies that show there is a helpful economic effect for smoking bans. In California, there was a 5 percent increase in tax revenues for hospitality businesses. Of course, other states were experiencing 10 percent to 15 percent growth during this same time, and in California, you have warm weather. It was relatively easy for most bars to get outside smoking space. Even Minnesotans are drawn inside when it gets below 0. Outdoor patios are just not going to be an option for seven months out of the year here.

Most of those studies, which are funded by anti-smoking groups, also ignore places such as pool halls, bowling alleys and bingo halls. These businesses are devastated by smoking bans. The largest such heartbreak is the Laurel Bowl, in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The place operated for more than 30 years, but one year after the ban and after 300 bowlers quit its leagues, it lost $200,000 in revenues and closed down.

But I don’t need studies or anecdotes to prove smoking was a necessary part of these businesses. If it was profitable for these businesses to ban smoking, they would have done so on their own. I assume people are a little greedy, and don’t find that distasteful. That greed gives them a reason to attract customers, which they provide good service to do. It takes a high school diploma to figure that out and a college degree to forget it.

I’m certain a smoking ban will have a very negative effect for people I know and care about in the nightlife industry. But beyond the economic impacts, hurt businesses and the lay-offs, I’d still oppose a smoking ban.

I have this crazy idea that people should have certain freedoms when it comes to their property. Whether it be a bar owner trying to create an environment where people can unwind a little from their lives, or a day-care center banning smoking in their business to attract people.

Marty Andrade welcomes comments at [email protected]