SJ 7/13/2010: “Clearing the air: Ballwin businesses adapt to indoor smoking ban”

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.”

10 responses to “SJ 7/13/2010: “Clearing the air: Ballwin businesses adapt to indoor smoking ban”

  1. harleyrider1978

    “If smokers want to harm their health where it doesn’t affect anyone else no one’s stopping them!”

    Duh! A law is in place that stops them even if its only for smokers alone and smoking employees…..excemptions for how long 5 years tops……hopefully all these PROHIBITION laws will be repealed within 5 years,last time it took 17 years before all the tobacco prohibition laws were repealed in the 43 states that had tobacco control laws between 1900 and 1917.

    John ERKLE aka harleyrider1978

  2. Charley Gatton

    There’s no PROHIBITION in these clean air ordinances – just restrictions. The major restriction is don’t smoke in a place of employment, where people as a condition of their employment have to breathe in your emissions. You have no right to force other people to breathe in your smoke, especially in enclosed places. Very similar to alcohol – it is not PROHIBITED, it is restricted – by age, and degree of intoxication, for the most part (I’m not referring to the dry counties found in various areas of the country).

  3. Charles Gatton

    I gave the interview for this article by phone, and later bumped into the reporter at Bones French Quarter as she was interviewing their customers. The owner’s comments were good, but she only used some of them. He has told me that if the ordinance magically went away, he would still keep the place smoke free – what better testimonial from a business that fought it tooth and nail can you get?

  4. Marshall Keith

    It prohibits the owner of the property from using a legal product on their own property. It declares the property public space without compensation. Perhaps you should read the constitution especially the fifth amendment.

    • Marshall, This argument that cigarettes should be exempted because they’re a legal product is repeated ad nauseum but is illogical. A pencil is a legal product but that doesn’t give me the right to poke your eye out with it.

      Because smoking became ubiquitous after the World War I, the norms about not smoking in public places or private workplaces fell by the wayside. We’re at last recognizing that they make sense and are reinstating them by means of ordinances.

      You are also deliberately confusing a private residence to which the public is NOT normally invited with a private business to which the public IS specifically invited, or is a place of work.

  5. Martin

    A business does not lose it’s property rights simply because the public is invited in.

    I love the extremes that you anti smoking activist will go to.Poking my eye out is illegal even if I am in your home. You collectivist of anti smokers believe that you have the right to go anywhere you want and be catered to. The fumes of cooking oils and cooking meat have about the same risks as ETS do you push for a ban on public cooking? No of course not. In a free society people are allowed to choose what risks they are willing to take and businesses are free to cater to those wishes. You choose the business that you want based on them catering to you. You are better then most of the activist. You actually allow dissent on your blog. I remind you that the only time the science behind the smoking ban was in court, it was thrown out. I also remind you that even your friend on the shadow panel Michael Siegel freely admits that there are many scientist that don’t believe the science is conclusive.
    So I guess the big question is, should laws be passed based on science that would not hold up in court.

    • Marshall,

      My point about smoking and pencils is that a legal product which harms others is not immune from government regulation to protect those it injures. There’s nothing extreme about that. I’m not aware of any scientific evidence supporting your assertion (repeated by others) that “the fumes of cooking oils and cooking meat have about the same risks as ETS,” but if reliable scientific evidence does exist those risks should be addressed.

      You don’t prove science in a court of law, and I’d also remind you that the case to which you refer, tried in North Carolina before Judge William Osteen, was eventually overturned on appeal by the U.S. EPA.

      I respect Dr. Michael Siegel but I find it hard to imagine that he doesn’t believe the scientific evidence against secondhand smoke conclusively supports protecting the public and employees from exposure to it.

  6. You are correct that Osteen was overturned, the problem was that it was overturned based on the fact that it was a report that could be ignored was not within the jurisdiction of the court. They did not overturn the substantive findings. My point is that no law should be passed based on science that can’t hold up in a court of law. As far as cooking oils and meat. I can give you a ton of them.

    Here is one from the EPA.

    The point is that this is a politically motivated maneuver by anti-smokers using weak science to justify bans. You did not read my link, yes Dr Siegel does believe in the scientific evidence, but he properly admits there are many prominent Scientist and Dr’s that don’t agree that RR’s as low as 1.3 prove anything. But all you here (sic) from Tobacco control is that the science is in and conclusive and that everyone agrees when it is only those within the movement that are 100% convinced
    I point you to this award winning article in Science.

    Oh here is the link to the court overturning Osteen.

    Click to access 982407.P.pdf

    Marshall Keith

  7. Marshall, I e-mailed Dr. Michael Siegel and asked him to respond to your charge that smoke-free air laws are just “politically motivated” with no scientific supporting evidence, and the use of his name to justify this claim. He replied as follows:

    To make it very clear, I don’t think there is any doubt about the scientific evidence that chronic exposure to secondhand smoke is a significant hazard. Thus, I support 100% smoke-free workplace laws. What I have contested is the assertion that short-term exposure to secondhand smoke, such as a 30-minute exposure, is enough to cause heart disease or to cause heart attacks in otherwise healthy individuals. My position can be easily misunderstood because it’s not black and white. I do believe that many anti-smoking groups have deceived the public about some aspects of secondhand smoke science, but that doesn’t mean that all claims that secondhand smoke is hazardous are wrong. Hopefully, people will be able to pick up the fine points in my analysis of these issues.

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