Detroit barkeeps head to Lansing to bounce smoking ban

Lansing — Detroit bar owners whose establishments are close to the Detroit casinos trekked to the state Capitol today to oppose legislation that would ban smoking in public places but make exceptions for casinos.

Tino Hammond, owner of Reggie’s Moulin Rouge in Detroit, said her business and her 40 employees will be in jeopardy if lawmakers approve the measure.

“This would just be the nail in the coffin,” she said at a news conference in Lansing. “Anybody in the downtown area would suffer tremendously. It would put us in jeopardy of closing in six to eight months.”

Christina Byrd, whose family owns Floods Bar & Grill in Detroit, said 30 percent to 35 percent of the lounge’s patrons smoke.

“We would be hit by this considerably and would have to downsize (the number of) our employees,” she said. Floods also has about 40 wait staff, security, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders and managers, she said.

Backers of the legislation say polls show the public wants a statewide workplace ban for health reasons. Casinos have argued a smoking prohibition that includes them would put them at a competitive disadvantage to Native American gaming halls, which would not be subject to the law.

The Senate is expected to take up the smoking ban bill this week, and Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, said he will introduce an amendment making exceptions for the Detroit casino floors, cigar bars and tobacco specialty shops. The ban would apply to the casino hotels and restaurants.

But Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said a ban with exceptions faces a tough road in the Senate.

“The majority leader’s position hasn’t changed. We’re still not inclined to tell businesses what to do about smoking policy, regardless of the health concerns,” Marsden said. “And if you’re making exceptions, you can’t argue the health issue.”

The Senate is not expected to take up the bill today.

Lance Binoniemi, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said a smoking ban would cost the state about 7,500 jobs and an untold number of jobs among Detroit businesses affected by the casino exception.

He said outstate bars and restaurants also would be affected because some patrons who enjoy smoking would stay home. He cited studies of no smoking laws in St. Louis, Ontario and New York that indicate a loss of customers.

“People will be out less if there’s a smoking ban,” he said.

Some who frequent bars in Detroit and elsewhere in the state favor the ban.

“I have worked in bars for 40 years. It (smoke) has turned my guitar yellow, my speakers yellow… I hate to think about my lungs,” said musician Benny Jets of Inkster. “Get the smoking ban done now.”

Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, on the Senate floor today called for quick action on a full smoking ban with no exceptions.

“The special carve-out for casinos is nothing but a knee-jerk response to lobbyists for casinos and their scare tactics” about job losses, Hunter said. “People are dying and health costs are skyrocketing.”


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