A good article on how non-smoking in indoor public places, including privately-owned bars, has become the norm, thanks to the groundbreaking legislative effort of former Ballwin Alderman Charles Gatton.
My only beef with the article is the reporter’s constant use of the word “ban” – it appears 21 times! – rather than describing this as what it’s actually doing: promoting smoke-free air in indoor environments open to the public or used as a place of work. If smokers want to harm their health where it doesn’t affect anyone else no one’s stopping them!
Clearing the air: Ballwin businesses adapt to indoor smoking ban
(Photo: Rick graefe/journals) Frank Hines of Ballwin enjoys a cool drink inside smoke-free Bones French Quarter Bar and Grill in Ballwin. The city enacted an indoor smoking ban in January 2006, making it the first municipality in St. Louis County to outlaw indoor smoking.
By Mary Shapiro
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 2:15 PM CDT
On a recent Friday afternoon at Bones French Quarter Bar and Grill in Ballwin, customers Jim Nunn and pal Steve Schilson of Chesterfield were relaxing, without the wreath of smoke that would have surrounded them in the past.
“Twenty years ago, when I first started coming here, everybody would be smoking in here,” smoker Nunn said. “It doesn’t really bother me that you can’t anymore. The food and drink are good.”
Schilson, a former smoker who quit after coming home from his service in Vietnam, approves of Ballwin’s indoor smoking ban in public places.
“If it was the way it was 20 years ago, I wouldn’t come here,” Schilson said.
Ballwin outlawed indoor smoking in January 2006, making it the first city in St. Louis County to enact a ban. Ballwin’s action came not long after a ban was approved in Arnold in Jefferson County.
Similar laws for Kirkwood and Clayton kicked in this year, and St. Louis County’s and St. Louis city’s bans will take effect in January.
Smoking bans in Ballwin and Arnold were vigorously opposed by bar owners and individuals. Since then, eating and drinking establishment owners, and many individuals, seem to have adjusted to the law.
Brian Armstrong, the owner of Bones, 14766 Manchester Road, had feared he’d lose customers to businesses in neighboring communities that didn’t have bans. In response to the ban, he built an outdoor patio and revamped his business.
“We went from a hole-in-the-wall tavern to putting in new TVs and different types of game tables,” Armstrong said. “I’ve changed staff and the menu, and we’re now catering to a different generation, rather than just smokers. People like the new things, and it worked out.”
He’s 35, and admits most people his age and younger don’t smoke inside most places.
“Since the law passed, I feel we have a younger overall crowd, though customers range in age,” he said. “Without blowing it out of proportion, business is better, but that’s not because of a smoking ban, but to us making improvements, thinking outside the box.”
Candicci’s Restaurant and Bar opened about a year ago at 100 Holloway Road. It’s the fourth restaurant in that space since the Ballwin smoking ban took effect.
Owner Bob Candice moved the restaurant there from Clayton, knowing about the ban from the start. Like Bones, Candicci’s has a big patio outside to accommodate smokers.
“People coming anywhere in Ballwin already knew they couldn’t smoke,” Candice said. “There are less and less smokers in West County. Despite our patio, many of our smokers still go out to the parking lot, because nonsmokers on the patio will give them dirty looks.”
Candice is looking forward to the countywide ban next year and “a level playing field.”
“While I’ve heard some restaurants here didn’t make it after the ban, they go out of business for a lot of reasons,” he said. “I’ve been in business since 1980, and our success is based on a lot of factors, like good food, good service and a friendly atmosphere.”
Charles Gatton, a former alderman who spearheaded the smoking ban legislation in Ballwin, said fallout from the ban was a factor in ending his political career in Ballwin. But he bounced back and he became a consultant for cities like Kirkwood, which wanted to outlaw indoor smoking.
“I had people coming in from all over the area to campaign against me,” he said. “But Ballwin wound up being a trend setter.”
Gatton believes some of restaurants and bars went out of business because of the later recession, competition from businesses opening in Chesterfield Valley or other firms’ remodeling and upgrades to attract customers.
Some were in financial trouble and losing money before the law, Gatton said.
“The restaurant business is very competitive,” he said. “Ballwin had had a gradual and small revenue slide for a few years before this ban was even talked about. But hospitality sales tax revenues went up in Ballwin in 2009.”
Tom Aiken, Ballwin’s city planner/assistant city administrator, agreed.
“The most dire predictions of the effects of the ban were probably overblown, with most concerns being exaggerated,” Aiken said.
About a year after the ban became effective, Ballwin traced all its restaurants’ revenues, based on their business license renewal applications, going back five years for a historic perspective.
“We found a mixed bag,” Aiken said. “Some showed declines, some showed increases, but it was all within the individual restaurant revenue variability we saw over the previous five years. The ban didn’t appear to have any dramatically identifiable impact on revenue.”