2011-10-31 P-D: “Clayton restaurants thrive after smoking ban”

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Regarding this story, Missouri GASP’s position in support of smoke-free air is confined to the health and welfare benefits it confers upon society, and the removal of barriers to access for anyone who is smoke-sensitive or sickened by secondhand smoke (SHS). As with any other such issue, it should not be dependent on economic factors unless the costs to society greatly outweigh the gains. That is not the case with SHS.

If you review the reader comments following publication of this story on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website you’ll note some second-guessing on the part of pro-smoking proponents as to the story’s balance or reported facts. I doubt they’re valid since reporter, Margaret Gillerman, can be relied upon to be objective.

My only criticism is that the story’s headline makes it sound like there’s been a big jump in Clayton restaurant revenue following the smoke-free air law, which the story itself belies. The print version of the newspaper was more restrained:

Clayton’s restaurant revenue grew in first year of its smoking ban.
Small increase may have been helped by countywide, city bans.

Clayton restaurants thrive after smoking ban
BY MARGARET GILLERMAN • mgillerman@post-dispatch.com > 314-725-6758 | Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011 12:15 am |
Comments (150 as of October 31, 2011, 10:39 pm)

CLAYTON • Despite warnings to the contrary, restaurants did nicely in Clayton in the first year of the city’s smoking ban.
         “The Clayton scene is alive and well and, most importantly, more healthy, than it has ever been,” said Mayor Linda Goldstein, who advocated the ban to protect public health. Sales tax revenue from restaurants is up slightly, and the number of restaurants is increasing, Goldstein said.
         The ban on smoking in restaurants and other public places went into effect July 1, 2010.
         City officials said that from July 2009 through April 2010, the city took in $1,677,269 in sales tax revenue from restaurants. From July 2010 through April 2011, the restaurants collected $1,684,029 in sales taxes, an increase of about $7,000.
         Clayton’s ban was followed by St. Louis County and city of St. Louis bans that went into effect on Jan. 2, 2011. Both the city and county bans include exemptions for establishments that do not sell much food.
         Frank Schmitz and some other Clayton restaurant owners initially had opposed Clayton’s ban. They had worried it could force them out of business if nearby municipalities did not enact bans.
         He said his BARcelona bar lost 20 percent of its business before the countywide ban went into effect.
         But it then bounced back.
         Schmitz said that he believed customers enjoy the smoke-free restaurants.
         “By allowing patrons to smoke on the sidewalk and sidewalk dining areas as well as on the back deck satisfies the need of our bar customers,” Schmitz said, adding that he would oppose banning smoking on sidewalks and on sidewalk dining areas.
         Goldstein noted that the revenue stayed stable in Clayton despite the ongoing economic downturn throughout the country. Although Clayton restaurants have had to confront that and some have closed in the weak economy, the smoking ban has been “a nonfactor,” Goldstein said.
         Even though some restaurants in Clayton did close, new ones opened in all but one of those same spots.

15 responses to “2011-10-31 P-D: “Clayton restaurants thrive after smoking ban”

  1. Martin, while I’m glad that you honestly noted that there was not a “large” jump in restaurant revenue, I don’t think you sufficiently emphasized just HOW small the jump was.

    Do the math and it looks like this: On average, a restaurant previously pulling in $1,000/day pre-ban is now pulling in an extra $4/day a year post-ban. Four-tenths of one percent.

    How does that compare to inflation for that one year period? If inflation were factored in, would it still have been a “jump” of any size at all?

    And how many of those daily $4 increases would be needed to build a comfortable back deck for restaurants that didn’t previously have one?

    And finally, would it have been difficult to find a town similar to Clayton in the same general area that did not have a ban to see if their restaurant figures went up by more than four-tenths of a single percent?

    (LOL! Martin I’m glad to have you back, but you must always wince a bit when you see I’m the first responder to a new column!)


    mogasp response: I don’t wince at all when I see a reply from smoke-free air opponents like yourself. It comes with the territory and is to be expected. Opponents are always going to be more vocal than supporters, who are the silent majority.
    I made my point in the intro. about what I see as the goal of smoke-free air efforts so I don’t need to repeat it. The economic argument, in my view, is a distraction. LOL Michael!

  2. Ah yes the pro-smoking as opposed to pro-choice. You repeatedly fail to see the distinction. Unlike anti-smokers/neo-prohabitionist, the pro-choice crowd does not demand all businesses cater to them. But more to the point Is that taxable revenue is in no way reflective if the economic impact on a business. Because of the progressive economic policy and the quanitive easing (printing funny money) done by the fed. The reality is that while sales tax revenue may go up the profits of a business may go down. This is indeed the fact in Ohio where the anti-smoking groups make the same claims for bars based on sales tax revenue,but when you kook at the bottles of liquor sold to bars you get a compleatly different picture.

    As I have repeatedly stated, the only real measure of economic impact is the profit/loss balance sheet which the anti-smoking groups avoid like the plague,WHY?

    Marshall P Keith

    mogasp character count = 994. Thanks for respecting the 1,000 character limit!
    As regards your question, MoGASP generally steers clear of economic arguments simply because that’s not my area of expertise. The only exception was the casino smoking study published earlier this year, of which I was last coauthor of six, the lead author being Jenine K. Harris, PhD. Please see my previous blog at:

  3. In addition to sales tax revenue which is tied directly to the “product”….alcohol and food……why don’t we bring up the issues of reduced cleaning and maintenance costs…..everywhere…..all 4 walls and floor/ceiling…..tables, upholstery….AIR……and then an expected drop in sick leave because the employees are healthier. In my opinion, this should never be an economic issue. Those bar owners that would rather cater to 20-25% of the population that wants to smoke over the health of their employees and the patrons desiring clean air should reap what they sow. Embrace the CAOs…..market to them……business in general improves. French Quarter in Ballwin adjusted and YEARS later is still going strong.

  4. When inflation, the recovering economy and the reopening of Highway 40 are factored in, aren’t Clayton restaurants actually down due to the smoking ban? When Federal Reserve economist Dr. Michael Pakko looked at the Columbia smoking ban, he also found that the amount of tax revenue collected from Columbia restaurants, like Clayton restaurants, was slightly greater the year after the smoking ban than the previous year. Yet he also determined that the revenues of Columbia establishments would have been 6 to 10 percent greater without the smoking ban.

    mogasp comment: Focussing just on the economic effects, which are complicated to assess accurately anyway, in my view, deflects attention away from the real issue: protecting health and welfare, etc. It’s a no brainer when you consider the benefits that are achieved so simply.

  5. Clayton already had a restaurant smoking ban since about 1987. (Although smoking was still allowed in bars and the bar areas of restaurants.) Thus, any sales tax comparison, post bar and bar area ban, would only include the ban impact on bars, and bar areas, not the food-serving taxable revenue as implied in MOGASP’s post. Clayton is also unique in that many out of town business travelers stay there, who cannot migrate to places that allow smoking because they don’t know the area, and in addition Clayton does a huge lunch-time crowd business, and workers in clayton may not have the time to travel to smoking allowed areas for short lunches. thus, Clayton is a very unrepresentative place to guage the effects of a smoking ban.

    mogasp comment: Clayton was only the second local municipality to institute any kind of smoke-free air ordinance, thanks to the determined efforts over 3 years of former Ald. Ben Uchitelle. It went into effect on October 9th, 1988.
    Ald. Leonard LaBerta introduced the first successful local ordinance in Rock Hill, which went into effect in June 1987.
    My recollection is that both were modest by the standards of today.

  6. One additional point of interest about Margaret’s very upbeat article. She somehow seems to have completely overlooked the data for the businesses most opposed to the ban and concerned about its effects: bars.

    Weren’t they told by the antismoking groups and politicians that their worries were groundless and that any losses would be negligible?

    So will Margaret, those groups, and those politicians lay their own wallets on the line to cover any losses those places had? After all, there weren’t supposed to BE any significant losses, right? So what’s to lose? I’m sure we could find an agreeably neutral economist to analyze the figures, factor in inflation, and come up with a number. After all, if there WERE losses they should most certainly, in all fairness, be borne by those who pushed for the law rather than those who were impacted by it against their will.

    Re focusing on health instead of economics: Fully agreed as long as the bars were honestly told what to expect.

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: When it comes to profit or loss for businesses, it seems to vary from business to business. But I still regard this as a red herring.

  7. Between July 2009, and April 2010, the recession was worse than between July 2010 and April 2011. thus, acording to the sales tax data presented above, the Clayton smoking ban was as bad as the recession we had in 2009and early 2010. true, we do still officially have a recession, but total retail buying across the USA is higher in the later period, proving the economy is now stronger.
    Also, sales tax revenues are a function of menu prices, and those have increased recently- cunuty wide. thus less restaurant food may have been sold between July 2010 and April 2011…
    Lastly, I’m certain the Clayton 1988 ban did eliminate smoking in all dining areas of restaurants in Clayton… Since bar sales are typically about 10% of food sales, these data could easily hide a 10-20% bar loss.

    mogasp comment: You evidently cannot rely on your memory anymore, certainly not when it comes to Clayton’s 1988 ordinance. I just pulled up the Excel spreadsheet I made of this ordinance and below are the salient points. (Note that restaurants seating 40 or less had no smoking restrictions whatsoever, which was perverse, since they were obviously the smallest restaurants where SHS levels were likely to be highest, but this was the norm back then. Those seating >40 had to designate at least 25% as “No Smoking” and that was considered a major achievement.):

    City of Clayton Ord. No. 4647, §1, 8-9-88

    Smoking Prohibited
    City municipal buildings – But permits designated smoking areas in hallway and lobby
    Gyms, Public Llibraries, Indoor Swimming Pools – But permits limited designated smoking areas
    Health Care facilities – Public areas – But permits designated smoking areas
    Restaurants seating >40 (exc. bar area or outdoor seating) – But exempted if at least 25% designated “No Smoking.”
    Retail/Grocery stores – Public areas
    Building staging motion picture, stage drama, musical recital, athletic event, etc. – But permits designated smoking area in lobby or non-public areas

    Bowling alley
    Private restaurant function controlled by sponsor
    Place primarily selling tobacco/tobacco products

    Office Workplace – Voluntary limitation

  8. As Jane points out, Sales Tax revenue is a concrete number. Savings on operating costs, while apparent, are rarely accurately reported. My experience, over the years, is sadly that many proprietors do not accurately report their sales figures – one business owner in Ballwin consistently reported “losses” that were at a minimum double those reflected on her sales tax reports. While she was most willing to give these bogus numbers out at Board of Aldermen meetings, she consistently refused to open her books, and reported substantially different numbers to the State. Many will take these bogus reports as gospel. So pardon me while I DO NOT accept the unsupported word of business and bar owners.

  9. Charles, agreed. I have repeatedly (perhaps 20 to 40 times by now?) challenged antismoking groups and individuals in various cities and states to back up their words with their own pocketbooks when they tell bar owners that they won’t lose business after a ban. I’ve even outlined entire procedures to cover legal arrangements and accounting for inflation and “economic meltdowns” and such things. Never even a SINGLE taker despite the fact that making such a guarantee would obviously greatly advance their goal of bans.

    Out of respect for our host here I won’t get as specific as I usually do about why they run away from the idea, although my challenge as such isn’t really aimed so much at groups/individuals without budgets or financial forks in the fire — more at the “big boys” in the game.

    Martin, re economic herrings: When you figure in the harm to the health of the workers and families from job/income losses it’s not such a small fish. DaveK can tell you more about that.

    – MJM

  10. Martin, I can understand your “red herring” economics feelings, but I think there’s a real question here. Despite some antismoking claims, it’s pretty widely accepted that the neighborhood bar biz takes a 10% to 30% post-ban hit. Some of that may get “absorbed,” but the bottom line when you’re dealing with a large and established base of businesses is that is that it “fits” the needs/capabilities of the market: a 20% profit loss roughly results in a 20% closure rate.

    Now think about the laid-off workers who truly HAVE NO OTHER PLACE to go to with their skills due to the ban-induced shrinking market: a much worse scenario than pro-banners claim when they say workers in the current market can’t switch jobs.

    Then think about the health costs to their families from delaying/ignoring med treatment or insurance payments.

    Martin, even if the “facts” of the matter are in between what we both believe, it is VERY possible that more lives will be lost because of the ban than will be saved.

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: I beg to respectfully disagree with your conclusion. And with efforts to reframe the issue as one of jobs loss. In my view, this is “redirection,” a technique conjurors employ.

  11. I live close to Clayton, my late wife worked in Clayton. I’ve served jury duty in Clayton, we used to attend the art fair every year. During the 1980’s, it was easy to find smoking seating in Clayton. by the mid-1990’s that had all but disappeared, except in bars and bar areas of restaurants. I do know that. i could not find a place to smoke at lunch time during jury duty.
    So, it does not matter WHY there was no restaruant smoking in Clayton, maybe it was voluntailty banned, but the fact remains that availability of smoking in Clayton restaurants was not materially impacted by the July 2010 ban. Thus, we should not expect taxable sales to be impacted much either.

    mogasp comment: Personal testimony can be misleading when applied broadly.

  12. @ Charles, If you follow the link I provided you will se the sales of liquor to the bars dropped in Ohio after the bans. You can attempt to spin all you want but those are the facts. If Smoke Free is as widely popular as you anti-smokers claim the “free market” would have made it happen long ago. The fact is that most non-smokers don’t care especially in the bar scene. It Is a noisy few who claim to speak for the many using questionable methods to achieve their goals.

    Marshall P Keith

  13. Personal testimony can be misleading,, yet most secondhand smoke studies which find harm rely on personal testimony because they are the case-controlled kind where sick nonsmokers are interviewed about their past exposure.
    So, If I can’t remember correctly that almost all Clayton restaurants were smoke-free pre ban… even though I live close to Clayton and my wife worked there… HOW RELIABLE CAN MOST SHS STUDIES, WHICH ALSO RELY ON PAST MEMORY BE???? If casino companies can’t remember accurately if they lost 20% of revenue post ban.. how accurate can most shs studies be. Is MOGASP sure that smoking was commonplace in Clayton pre-ban???

    mogasp comment: We are getting off the subject somewhat, but not only can I recall the fact that I was exposed to SHS almost everywhere I went during much of the eleven years I worked at McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co., I can back that up with detailed measurements of personal exposure once static nicotine monitors became available, plus a record of changing SHS company workplace policy over the years.

  14. Was McDonnell in Clayton????? talk about getting off the subject!!!!

    mogasp reply: This was in the context of former ubiquitous exposure to SHS in the workplace.

  15. Ok, I do agree that about half of all county restaurants and all bars had smoking prior to the Jan 2011 ban ( except Ballwin by ordinance, and Clayton voluntairly by owners.) and that MD had lots of smoking in the 1990s and 1980s,,, But as said, Clayton was a different animal,, having practically no smoking anywhere-pre ban. So adding force of law will make no real difference. Thus, you cannot generalize that the Clayton data will hold true anywhere else. PLUS..even then, inflation and overall retail sales across the USA increased about 4% in 2011 over 2010,, why didn’t that hold true for Clayton???

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