Reporters David Hunn and Margaret Gillerman, with contributions from reporter Phil Sutin, wrote a comprehensive story about how affected businesses are reacting to the imminent implementation of the smoke-free air ordinances in St. Louis City and County.
They have also provided a good review of the main elements of the two ordinances and how to report violations. It’s a pity some businesses are scrambling to find ways around these laws, which are primarily to protect public health and welfare, but it’s driven by probably exaggerated concerns of losing smoking customers’ business which will not be offset by nonsmokers taking up the slack.
To what extent that is true remains to be seen, but this is undoubtedly an historic day for metro St. Louis, and many individuals and elected officials can take credit for it.
BY DAVID HUNN • firstname.lastname@example.org > 314-436-2239 and MARGARET GILLERMAN • email@example.com > 314-725-6758 | (148) Comments as of December 31, 2010, 8:32 pm| Story posted: Friday, December 31, 2010 7:30 am
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At Pepper’s Bar & Grill on Gravois Avenue, owners are thinking of tearing the roof off an enclosed walkway.
At Blueberry Hill in University City, owner Joe Edwards is cutting a door into an exterior wall to connect to an outdoor ‘smoking porch.”
And at Riley’s Pub on Arsenal Street, everyone is resigned to the fact that as of Sunday, families with children will not be coming in for pizza.
Bars, restaurants and public places in St. Louis and St. Louis County go smoke-free Sunday, much to the delight of anti-smoking advocates.
And while some bar owners welcome the new laws, others feel left in the lurch. They are convinced their businesses will be irreparably harmed if forced to air out their bars’ hazy hue. Now they’re wading through complex rules, and scrambling to find ways around the ban.
“There’s a lot of places out here that are going to lose a lot of business. It’s not fair,” said Jim Mackiewicz, owner of Jimmy Mack’s on Southwest Avenue. “If they wanted it done, they should have done the whole state.”
Of the nearly 1,750 bars in the city and county, about 245 — 15 percent — have sought exemptions, with more applications expected. The county has already granted 95 exemptions. The city applications are pending.
“I’m getting tons of questions,” said Pat Mahoney, a supervisor in St. Louis’ Health Department. “It’ll get done. It will get done.”
The ban affects adult care centers, the smoking lounges at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, some parking garages and even certain private organizations, such as the Missouri Athletic Club downtown, which hosts periodic cigar-smoking events.
“We feel grossly discriminated against,” said James Godfrey, Jr., a member of the MAC’s “Stogie Club” and an attorney at Evans & Dixon. “It’s a very simple pleasure, and something that really doesn’t harm anybody.”
Godfrey said fellow cigar buffs were hoping the MAC could find a way to keep a smoking section in the club — maybe even a whole floor devoted “to delinquents like us.”
Officials, however, say the ban will save lives and promote healthy living.
“This law is the single most effective thing we have done to improve public health in the last 50 years,” said Pam Walker, city health director.
Alderman Lyda Krewson, D-28th Ward, who championed the bill in the city, feels the same way.
“I think most look forward to the day when Missouri joins the rest of the world,” she said. “The newsworthy thing about it is that we’re just now getting there.”
And some bar owners agree.
“It’s never nice to get out of work at night reeking of an ashtray,” said Adrian Glass, owner of the Post Sports Bar and Grill at 7372 Manchester Road in Maplewood. “And if anything, it will increase business.”
Give the ban a week, he said, and watch: Everybody’s going to love it.
Plenty of patrons — even some smokers — already do.
“I always want to quit,” said Matt Schindler, 33, of St. Louis, who stopped for a drink last week at Llywelyn’s Pub in Webster Groves. Schindler smokes only when he is having a drink. “I don’t see dragging myself outside to smoke,” he said.
The new laws outline what is exempt from the ban, including private residences, some private clubs, casino gambling floors, tobacco stores and 20 percent of a hotel’s rooms.
Bars have to apply for an exemption. And not all qualify. Sports bars, for example, will be hard-pressed to qualify, as the businesses can earn no more than 25 percent of their revenues from food. In the city, they also cannot be larger than 2,000 square feet, or allow anyone under 21 inside. Even then, they can get exemptions only until 2016, when all bars must go smoke-free.
In south St. Louis, Pepper’s is trying to figure out how to cut out a few hundred square feet of bar space. The enclosed walkway adds just enough to push it over the 2,000-square-foot threshold, making the bar ineligible for an exemption.
Removing the roof might change that.
“It’s been a neighborhood place for 30 years,” said Sam Orlando, an owner of Pepper’s. “It’s always been a bucket-of-beer and a smoking bar.”
In the Delmar Loop, Joe Edwards is building a small outdoor smoking porch onto the east side of his iconic Blueberry Hill bar and restaurant. “Dart board number seven no longer exists,” Edwards said. In its place is now a door to the covered porch, where smoking will be allowed.
In Tower Grove South, bars are scrutinizing their revenue figures to see how they match city requirements, said Denny Domachowski, manager of Friendly’s Sports Bar & Grill, on Roger Place. Friendly’s is OK, he said. It sells plenty of $1.50 brats, but many more $10 buckets.
In Breckenridge Hills, GB Field Old Timers Saloon closed most of its kitchen and laid off four employees in order to cut its food revenue to 25 percent. Yet it’s still unclear if it will fit the law. Bar manager Debi Sloan has written protest letters to Gov. Jay Nixon, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan.
At the Bastille in Soulard, owner Bob Hiscox said he also shut down his kitchen to retain smoking. He’s also building an 18-foot-long cigarette out of an old carpet tube, to serve as one of the warning signs required by the law. “My doorway is going to be full of signs, so why not have a great big cigarette attached to my awning?” he said.
NO MORE PIZZA
But, in some places, the effects of the smoking ban will be more subtle.
Bill Kapes, the owner of Riley’s, on Arsenal, has applied for an exemption. But the consequence is that Kapes will lose another group of patrons this weekend: families.
Locals have long brought their children in for inexpensive, hand-made pizzas. They sit in the back room, where the kids can play darts or video games.
Kapes built that side of the bar to accommodate them. It’s got high-backed booths, cut glass windows, hanging lamps and five tables he put together himself from salvaged Italian marble. Patrons and employees like seeing the families come in. It adds to the neighborhood feel.
“We’ll probably be just fine,” said Ron Kittrell, 61, who works at the bar, lives above it and was drinking there earlier this week. “But I hate to see us lose the neighbors bringing their kiddos in for pizza and root beer.”
And, at that moment, a family of five walked in, three kids in tow. For the last time for a while.
Phil Sutin of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
City, county Smoking bans
• Most private residences.
• Casino gambling floors.
• 20 percent of a hotel’s rooms.
• Most tobacco stores.
• Bars making 25 percent or less of their income from food, and, in the city, that are no larger than 2,000 square feet and do not allow anyone under 21 inside.
• Private clubs. (In the city, clubs must have no employees in order to get an exemption.)
• Private and semiprivate rooms in St. Louis County nursing homes, provided all residents of the room are smokers.
Creve Coeur, Brentwood
• Brentwood’s ban takes effect Saturday; Creve Coeur’s on Sunday.
• Neither city’s ban allows exemptions for bars or nursing homes.
• Creve Coeur’s allows smoking in private clubs in existence as of Sunday.
• Brentwood’s exempts tobacco shops.
• In the city, applications are available at the Department of Health, 1520 Market Street, Room 4051, or by calling 314-657-1539.
• In the county, applications are available at the licensing office on the 4th Floor of the County Administration Building, 41 South Central Avenue, Clayton, and online at bit.ly/ggp3wh.
• In the city, call the Citizens Service Bureau at 314-622-4800.
• In the county, call the Health Department at 314-615-8900.
• Same in city and county: An individual smoker faces a fine of up to $50 for each occurrence, and an owner of an establishment faces a fine of up to $100 for the first violation, up to $200 for the second in a year and up to $500 for each additional violation in a year.
• In the city, call the Health Department at 314-622-4800 or post to Twitter at @stlcsb.
• In the county, call the Health Department at 314-615-8900 or go online to stlouisco.com/doh/IndoorCleanAirCode/