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Smoking ban rattles bar, eatery business

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Last edited 10:50 p.m., June 4, 2012

When it comes to smoking in public places, it seems everyone has an opinion.

Nearly four months after the voter-approved smoking ban became official June 11, a few area bar and restaurant owners say their sales speak for themselves.

Charlie Foss, owner of three Schultz & Dooley’s in town, said each of his operations has experienced a significant revenue drop.

He said his Schultz & Dooley’s Too and South Lone Pine Avenue eating and drinking establishments were both down nearly 35 percent, while sales have fallen more than 15 percent in Chesterfield Village compared to the same period the last couple of years. Though Foss declined to disclose revenues, he said the decline at Schultz & Dooley’s Too translates into roughly $2,000 per week.

Foss believes his customers may be frequenting bars outside of town, but many of them might just be staying at home.

“I’ve talked to friends of mine in California, St. Louis and Kansas City where they’ve got (a smoking ban in place), and their indication was after about six to eight months, (sales) began to rebound. It got better, but never back to the original volume they were doing,” Foss said.

Jeffrey Gower, president of Wil Fischer Distributing Co. in Springfield, declined to comment on his company’s volume of alcohol distribution to Springfield bars and restaurants since the ban took effect.

Kathy Tyler, owner of Tailgaters Pub & Eatery on South Scenic Avenue, said she recently decided to close up shop following a drop in revenues after the smoking ban took effect. The 16-year-old business planned to close Oct. 1.
KSPR's Springfield Business Journal Report

 

“I’m not going to say that it’s 100 percent because of the smoking, but I can tell you that beginning the day the smoking ban went into effect, my business went down $1,000 a week,” Tyler said. “And with a small business, and in an economy that was already bad, it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

She said she spent $1,500 on materials to construct a beer garden after the ban was in place, but the efforts were in vain.

“This was supposed to be my retirement. And now, I own a building that I can’t pay the payments on, a business that I can’t pay the bills on, and I’m having to lay off all my employees and lose my income,” said Tyler, who plans to file for unemployment. “I’m almost 62 years old, I have no other job to go to, and I’m not old enough to draw my Social Security.”  

Prior to the recession, Tyler said her west Springfield neighborhood bar that employs four brought in up to $5,000 per week. In the last couple of years, weekly sales had dropped to $3,000 to $4,000. Since smoking was banned in enclosed public spaces, Tailgaters’ revenues settled at $2,000 to $2,300 per week, she said.

Citizens for Clean Air Springfield collected more than 1,800 signatures to bring the smoking ban ordinance before voters in April.

According to OneAirAlliance.org, one of the key reasons to seek the ban in Springfield was the health of the employees at establishments where smoking had been permitted.

“Secondhand smoke increases their risk of heart disease, stroke, respiratory problems and cancer, causing more than 35,000 heart disease and 3,000 lung cancer deaths every year,” according to the site, and employees are exposed to that unhealthy air for prolonged periods of time, increasing their odds of contracting heart disease or lung cancer.

Karrah Duckworth, general manager at Schultz & Dooley’s Too, said while she doesn’t smoke, if being exposed to smoking bothered her, she wouldn’t have accepted the job.

“I knew what I was getting into when I took this job,” Duckworth said. “It’s just not the same atmosphere anymore.”

Jim Knight, owner of Knightyme Bar & Billiards Inc. at the corner of West Division and West Bypass, said sales at his blue-collar bar began to decline in advance of the ordinance going into effect.

“Our business is down. It was down in May, June, July and especially August. August was probably the worst month I’ve had in business,” Knight said of the 44 percent revenue dip last month, compared to August 2010. Previous months had dropped by at least 25 percent, he said, declining to disclose the figures.

“It’s not about smoking or not smoking. It’s about them taking another one of our rights away. As individuals, they are taking our rights away one at a time,” Knight said. “We’re adults. We ought to be able to make our own choices.

“I ought to be able to put a sign on my front door that says, ‘Hey, we smoke in here. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else,’” he said.

Councilman Nick Ibarra said he has decided against introducing an amendment to modify the smoking ordinance to make it less restrictive on businesses that produce or distribute tobacco products, such as cigar and gift shop Just for Him on East Battlefield Road. Ibarra, who was opposed to the ban, said amending the ordinance is not realistic at this time because the initiative was passed by voters and only a unanimous City Council could pass an amendment.

“There are certain council members who aren’t willing to budge. It is unfortunate that there is no diplomacy or negotiations involved,” Ibarra said.[[In-content Ad]]

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