Archive for Saturday, July 31, 2004

Smoking ban’s effects still unclear

Uncertainty doesn’t keep Lawrence businesses from accommodating smokers

July 31, 2004


Sunday marks the one-month anniversary of the citywide indoor smoking ban. But bar and restaurant operators say it is too soon to know what the ban has meant for business.

"You know we don't have the first full month of business completed, so it's really hard to say; it bounces back and forth from day to day," said Chuck Magerl, owner of Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass. "It's just been up and down, all over the board. This month we've had some days that were up 10 percent in beer sales for instance, and other days that are down 25 to 27 percent, and the down days definitely outnumber the up days."

Many businesses have tried to make the outdoors more comfortable for smoking clients pushed outside by the ban. Free State has added dining tables to its front porch. At Louise's Bar Downtown, 1009 Mass., an elaborate two-story metal patio addition is being built that will roughly double the bar's capacity.

Welcome result

And establishments that banned smoking before the law required it may be seeing a boon from the ban.

At Marisco's, a restaurant that had been smoke free prior to the ban, sales have gone up.

"I would expect that's because we were nonsmoking and I assumed the smokers wouldn't come due to the fact that they wanted to smoke, and now they're willing to come because everyone else is nonsmoking," said Fee Monshizadeh, a part owner of Marisco's, 4821 W. Sixth St.

Monshizadeh is also part owner of JB Stout's Bar and Grill, 721 Wakarusa Drive, which was not smoke free prior to the ban.

There, "I've seen some decrease in the bar revenue, which is understandable. A lot of people come to the bar and they would like to actually drink and smoke a cigarette and have a cocktail and things like that; now they are not staying as long," Monshizadeh said.

Magerl and Monshizadeh agreed it was too soon to draw conclusions about the ban based on individual businesses. But once sales tax receipts begin to be tallied by the government, an overall picture of the consequences will become clear.

"We will really be able to see whether or not this ban has an impact on drinking establishments, bars and restaurants and bowling alleys and things like that because of how the taxes are reported to the state," Magerl said.

Customers react

Business owners may not be ready to draw conclusions about their bottom lines. But those who frequent the establishments say they've noticed immediate changes.

"I think it's easy to say for those of us who go out to say early on, it's a lot different than it used to be," said Heidi Haynes, a Kansas University student. "Outside on decks it's extremely crowded and it's kind of annoying for patrons at bars. We were just at Henry's last night and their deck was packed, there was hardly anybody inside."

Haynes' friend Laura Callaway agreed.

"I enjoy not having smoke in the bars, but again, all the decks are really crowded and outside is crowded, so you can definitely tell a difference."

19 complaints

Nineteen complaints have been received since the ban began by Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, the agency in charge of enforcement. No citations have been issued.

"We're enforcing it to the point we can. There hasn't been the volume of complaints everyone thought there would be," said Mark Bradford, deputy chief. "The enforcement issue has gone very well, because either people aren't smoking or the managers are taking care of the situation."

But many have taken notice of more cigarette butts along the streets, and so far the city has no plans to provide receptacles.

"I don't know if it's an absolute problem; there were cigarette butts before the ban," said City Manager Mike Wildgen. "We're looking at possibilities, but we haven't bought anything."

Gathering signatures

As for the petition to force a referendum on the ban, there are no official numbers to report.

"I'm unsure of the total, but we have over two grand (thousand signatures) in hand," said Philip Bradley, executive director of the Kansas License Beverage Assn., and a leader in the petition drive.

At least 3,764 signatures are needed to send the issue to the ballot. The Appeal to Reason Tolerance Coalition, the driving force behind the petition, is meeting Tuesday to discuss the progress of the petition drive.

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