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October 07, 2008 3:01 am

Business owners: Smoking ban is bad for business

Written by Tribune Staff

While many support a proposed statewide law prohibiting smoking in public buildings, some local business owners say a smoking ban would affect their business and infringe on their rights.

“I don't think that's up to snuff,” said Mick Walker, who owns the Classic Lanes bowling alley. “I can't see me losing a percentage of my business ... because somebody else is cleaning up the world.”

A joint committee of the Wyoming Legislature is debating the issue this fall and could forward a bill to the 2009 Legislature that would ban smoking in buildings statewide.

Walker said prohibiting smoking at the bowling alley could cost him 20 percent of his income, and he already struggles to get a portion of the limited money locals are able to spend on recreation.

“What I would lose in revenue with smokers I'm not going to gain back in (revenue from) nonsmokers,” he said. “I've owned this business for 45 years. Now I've got people, who've never set foot in my door, telling me who I can allow in my business... That's a violation of my rights, as far as I'm concerned. People should be able to make their own choice.”

Shelly Harvey, manager of the Eagles Lodge in Powell, said she also disagrees with the proposal.

“I don't think it should be legislated whether you can smoke or not,” Harvey said.

A smoking ban would hurt business at the lodge. She has heard customers talking against the proposed ban, and she believes it would be a deterrent that would keep some customers away, she said.

Since the lodge is a private club, Harvey said she doesn't think a smoking ban should apply there.

“I think it should be voted by the club,” she said. “That should be an option.”

She noted that the Eagles Lodge has good smoke filters that help reduce the amount of smoke in the air.

Aaron Rustad manager of Joey's Martini Bar, said the proposal “doesn't bother me too much.”

While smoking is allowed at the bar at night after dinner hours are over, “there's no smoking while my kitchen's open,” he said.

Some customers would object to a smoking ban, and a ban probably would hurt some businesses, Rustad said.

“At the same point, a lot of other states around us are doing it, so I feel it's just a matter of time,” he said.

Rustad said he's heard that business dropped off significantly for some bars and restaurants in cities that enacted smoking bans, but that it picked up gradually afterward. But he has no information to back that up, he added.

Diane Miller, manager of the American Legion in Powell, said many customers like to smoke at the bar there.

“Most nonsmokers sit in another area where it's not so bad,” she added.

Miller said the legion also uses smoke filters to reduce smoke in the air, and smoking is prohibited in the hall where bingo and other public functions take place.

“We have (customers) that don't smoke, and we have ones that do. We try to accommodate everybody.”

Miller also said a smoking ban should not apply to private clubs such as American Legion.

Marlene Gallagher, owner of Hansel and Gretel's, said customers there like things just like they are.

“We have half smoking, half non-smoking,” with each side in a different building, she said. “Customers ... say we're not being prejudiced against those who do smoke. They very much like it the way it is.”

But if a smoking ban were put in place, it should be done at the state level and not by cities or counties, she said.

“It should be everyone statewide if they're going to do it,” she said. “I just think it has to be one way or the other. If we say we want to make Wyoming people healthier, that's what we need.”