Smoking ban to have impact on local businesses

Emily Kaiser

For University students such as Niki Korth, visiting a coffee shop on campus for coffee and a smoke is routine.

“It’s part of the incentive to come here,” said Korth, while smoking and sipping coffee at Espresso 22 in the Dinkydome. “It’s a good study aid.”

Because many coffee shops near campus allow smoking, the Minneapolis citywide smoking ban set to start March 31 will have a major impact on their sales, said Pat Weinberg, owner of the Purple Onion Cafe in Dinkytown and Espresso Expose in Stadium Village.

Weinberg said approximately half of his customers are smokers and the ordinance could put the Purple Onion Cafe out of business.

“I have been asking (customers) what they are going to do when they ban it, and a lot of them think they are going to stop coming,” he said.

Weinberg said that when the Purple Onion Cafe opened 11 years ago, smoking and having a coffee was just like going out for a beer and a cigarette.

Minneapolis and Bloomington, Minn., will enact a completely smoke-free ordinance March 31, while Ramsey County will enact a partial smoking ban. The partial smoking ban allows smoking in places with more than 50 percent sales in alcohol.

Weinberg said he would support a smoking ban if it were state-wide.

“They have made a totally unfair playing ground for Minneapolis. It shouldn’t have been done,” Weinberg said. “We have had too many other things happen to us in the last three years, with the economy the way it is and Sept. 11.

“We didn’t need this, too, now to overcome.”

Korth, a regular at Espresso 22, said that when the smoking ban is implemented, she will probably still come, because it is close to her classes, but won’t go to places such as Hard Times Cafe as often.

Though Korth said she supports restaurant smoking bans, she is against any smoking ban in coffee shops.

“I just don’t think it’s fair,” she said.

Genetics junior Shelly Williams was busy studying in Starbucks in Dinkytown on Wednesday. She said her favorite coffee shop is the Purple Onion Cafe, but she doesn’t like smelling like smoke.

Once all coffee shops are smoke-free, she will attend the Purple Onion Cafe much more regularly, she said.

Even if there are students such as her who go back to the smaller coffee shops, coffee shops such as Starbucks won’t lose much business, Williams said.

“I think establishments like this already have regular clientele,” she said.

Many other business owners on campus said they are wondering what the future of their businesses will be once they go smoke-free.

Sue Jeffers, owner of Stub & Herbs bar in Stadium Village, said Minneapolis will have to change its smoking ban in order for rules to be more consistent across the metro area. She said the ban should be similar to St. Paul’s ordinance, which is less strict.

“(The Minneapolis City Council) will realize how damaging it will be to have a smoking ban in Minneapolis,” she said. “People will go to St. Paul, plain and simple.”

She said the Minneapolis City Council is not looking at the small businesses in the area and the effect the ban will have on them.

“I keep pointing out to them that they want to keep the businesses fat and happy so you can tax the hell out of us,” she said. “But they kind of forget that no one is going to pay for their programs if there are boarded-up businesses.”

Jeffers said many regular customers come to her bar because they can smoke and drink, and she doesn’t want to lose them.

“The (City Council) doesn’t understand that every single customer is our customer and we want them,” she said. “We don’t want to send them over to St. Paul.”

Although the issue might not be an influential part of this year’s election, it will be a big issue in the coming years, Weinberg said.

“I hope we get a statewide ban as soon as possible, and if it doesn’t happen, small businesses, especially bars in Minneapolis, will suffer,” Weinberg said.

Korth said the city governments supporting the smoking ban are doing it for the wrong reasons.

“As much as they say it’s a health issue, they are doing it so employees of the businesses think they care, but they really just want their votes in the future,” Korth said.