Businesses brace for statewide smoking ban

Wausau-area business and tavern owners aren’t fond of the proposed statewide smoking ban, but say it at least will level the playing field.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s got to happen on a statewide level,” said Dean Day, owner of Day’s Bowl-A-Dome in Wausau. “These local bans can and have devastated small owners. Having a statewide ban is the only way to go.”

Lawmakers agreed Wednesday to a measure that would prohibit smoking in almost every Wisconsin workplace, including all bars and restaurants. If approved by legislators and signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle, the ban would take effect July 5, 2010, allowing business owners to brace for the change.

Though the ban prohibits smoking indoors, it allows tavern and restaurant owners to set up outdoor smoking areas. For Mike Maas, co-owner of The Chatterbox in Wausau, that provision will allow him to keep his smoking customer base satisfied; Maas’ establishment has an outdoor beer garden. More in Central Wisconsin Business

Others, such as Bob Tesmer, the owner of Arrow Sports Bar and Grill in Weston, are looking at providing an outdoor arrangement for smokers.

“You have to make sure it flies with the state and local government,” Tesmer said. “Whatever their restrictions will be, we have to work within them and come up with the best possible solution.”

Tesmer will have to act faster than most. On Jan. 1, Weston’s smoking ban will take effect, mirroring the proposed state legislation.

Dean Zuleger, Weston’s administrator, said the village has no plans to push its implementation date back to July 5, 2010. The earlier ban — Jan. 1, 2010 — for Weston taverns and restaurants, he said, will give them a “competitive advantage” because they’ll already be fully adjusted when the state ban takes effect.

Some restaurants have beaten the state to the ban, such as Wausau’s Hiawatha, which went smoke-free May 1. Stephanie McColley, a bartender at the restaurant, said customers are “welcoming the change.” But, even as a smoke-free establishment, McColley thinks the state’s regulation on smoking is intrusive.

“If a business owner wants to have a smoking environment, they should be allowed to have smoking,” she said. “I understand the positive health benefits, but at the end of the day, it’s a business that people are trying to run.”

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