Restaurant owners speak out about smoking banMajority say new law has resulted in same amount of customers, if not more
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Before Minnesota’s Freedom to Breathe law — banning smoking in indoor public spaces — took effect Oct. 1, bar and restaurant workers across the state were apprehensive about the possible repercussions they would see on business.
More than a month has passed since smokers had to step outside for their Marlboros, and many establishments have not experienced a negative impact on sales.
In Worthington, both Perkins and the Ground Round report they have served more customers since their smoking sections were eliminated.
“As far as our business, I could almost say we’re busier or as busy,” said Louise Rients, manager of the Ground Round. “It’s allowing people to be seated in our dining room or lounge because all is non-smoking.”
Ground Round has an open- air patio adjacent to its building, and Rients said people are taking advantage of continued nice weather to sit outside and smoke. A heater was set up on the patio — a feature Rients said is popular at ski resorts — but there haven’t been too many days when it’s been needed.
Overall, Rients said, “I really haven’t had any complaints from people. I think it was very well accepted.”
At Perkins, general manager Sue Schweigert said any negative comments about the smoking ban have faded, and smokers continue to dine at the establishment.
“Our business has increased slightly,” she said. “(The business increase) was no surprise to me at all.”
At A&T Tap, owner Craig Sailor tells a different story. Business is down slightly, and Sailor is concerned it will only get worse as the temperature drops outside.
“Now, it’s not that big of an imposition to ask people to stand outside,” he said. “To do so in 10- to 20-degree weather is another story.”
Sailor said a few of his regular customers have not come back since the Freedom to Breathe law took effect.
“They’re just not going out as much, the ones I’ve talked to,” he said. “They drink at home and are not doing the activities they usually do in bars.”
A&T Tap hosts a dart league, pool league and poker league two nights per week, which Sailor said has helped, but all of those leagues are noting a decrease in participation from last year.
On the flip side, Sailor said he has noticed more families bringing their children in to eat at the establishment.
“I’m hoping that (business) comes back as more non-smokers come in to eat,” he added.
As for the smoking clientele, Sailor said most are now resigned to the fact they cannot smoke indoors.
“They just realize that this is the way it’s going to be,” he said, adding that a few have made comments about trying to give up their smoking habit.
Not all bars in the area are experiencing a drop in business. Management at the Rumor Mill in Adrian, the Silver Bucket Bar in Brewster and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Worthington have all noticed little change since the smoking ban took effect.
“I haven’t noticed less smoking patrons, but there probably will be when it’s 5 degrees out,” said Denny Anderson, vice commander and co-manager at the VFW. “Right now, they’re going outside.”
Though the VFW doesn’t have an outdoor patio in place for its smoking customers, Anderson said it hopes to get something in place next summer.
While he still hears complaints from smokers about not being able to have a cigarette or two indoors, Anderson said he is surprised by what he hears from the non-smoking public.
“I haven’t heard from one non-smoker yet that thinks it’s (the ban) a good idea,” he said. “Non-smokers are very firm in their belief that the government shouldn’t be stepping in.”More from around the web