S.D. bar opts to go smoke-freeInstead of awaiting a decision by the state Legislature, Joel Van Dover and his partners have decided to implement their own smoking restrictions.
By: Austin Kaus The Daily Republic, Worthington Daily Globe
Instead of awaiting a decision by the state Legislature, Joel Van Dover and his partners have decided to implement their own smoking restrictions.
Beginning Monday, Blarney’s Pub and Casino will not allow smoking, except in an enclosed video lottery casino and on its outdoors patio.
It’s a topic that’s been under discussion for six months, said Van Dover, general manager of the southern Mitchell establishment. When the time came to vote last week, Van Dover and his five partners voted unanimously to make the change.
“The main reason we made the decision was the health reason,” Van Dover. “It’s the right thing to do health-wise.”
The decision comes during the same week of a three-year study that shows a 41 percent drop in heart attack hospitalizations in Pueblo, Colo., after that city banned workplace smoking. The study isn’t without controversy, as at least one academic disbelieves the findings.
Still, Darrin Smith, of the American Heart Association’s South Dakota office, says he’s pleased with the decision by Blarney’s management and says it may be the beginning of an anti-smoking movement in the state. He’s confident that demand for smoke-free businesses will lead to passage of a complete public smoking ban later this year by the state Legislature. Smith said AHA and other organizations are lobbying for a legislative smoking ban.
Dave Knudson, a state lawmaker from Sioux Falls, told The Daily Republic in November that he plans to co-sponsor legislation that would ban smoking in bars, restaurants and casinos.
Smith said the latest round of polling done by the AHA shows that 65 percent strongly support a move to eliminate smoking in public places.
“I think this is going to be our year,” Smith said.
Van Dover isn’t ready to predict what the Legislature will do about smoking when the session begins Jan. 13. He’s just hoping customers who have earlier expressed a desire to see Blarney’s go smoke-free will stick to their word and frequent the business.
The current no-smoking section at Blarney’s is the first to fill each day, Van Dover said. Over the holiday season, many customers left rather than being seated in the smoking section.
He said tourists often seek out smoke-free restaurants, and he’s hoping the policy change will bring more families through the doors.
The decision was easier to make because of the restaurant’s casino and outdoor porch, Van Dover said.
“It made the decision a little easier for us because we know that people that like to have a cigarette while they have a beer or after they dine … can go out on the patio and do so,” Van Dover said.
He believes the Legislature will eventually pass stronger bans on smoking in restaurants, but also feels a ban on smoking in casinos would be “devastating.”
“The majority of our customers look like they enjoy having a cigarette while playing video lottery, so I think it would probably be very difficult on the casino industry,” he said.