New Michigan smoking ban in workplaces, restaurants and bars gets mixed reaction from business owners

With his fingers curled around a and a gin and tonic in the other hand, Randy Dawe mused on the unfairness of a state smoking ban approved Thursday by the state Legislature.

Next spring, he won’t be able to inhale at his favorite tavern, Bob’s Sports Bar, 725 Michigan St. NE. Meanwhile, people who frequent casinos still will be able to light up.

“I think it’s a bunch of crap. I don’t think it’s fair to the business owners in the state,” the 53-year-old Dawe said.

“There should be one law for everyone.”

Jason Sanchez enjoys a cigarette with cocktails during happy hour at Bob's Sports Bar Thursday afternoon.

Jason Sanchez enjoys a cigarette with cocktails during happy hour at Bob's Sports Bar Thursday afternoon.

Bob’s Sports Barowner Dick Beattie isn’t sure how he will make the transition to smoke-free without losing some customers.

“They are going to buy their six-pack and take it home where they can smoke,” said Beattie, who is considering setting up a heated area outside for patrons to light up.

Michigan will go smoke-free in May once Gov. Jennifer Granholm signs a workplace smoking ban, which includes bars, restaurants and private clubs. It will become the 38th state to do so.

The Legislature passed a smoking ban exempting three Detroit casinos, cigar bars, home offices and motor vehicles.

The Democrat-led state House of Representatives approved the ban 75-30; and The Republican-led Senate passed the measure 24-13. Granholm, a Democrat, said Thursday she will sign the bill.

“I think it’s a great gift to Michigan,” she said.

The approval comes after years of squabbling over what should be included in the ban.

Lobbyists for the three Detroit casinos argued they compete with tribal casinos not affected by the state ban. They also compete with a non-smoking casino in neighboring Windsor, Ontario..

State Sens. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, and Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township were among the 13 who opposed the bill.

Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, was in Washington, D.C. He serves on the board of the National Institute of Building Sciences.

“If it is a health-care issue, it has to be a health-care issue everywhere,” Jansen said of voting against the bill because of its exemptions.

“Nobody should get special privileges in this.”

State Rep. Mike Huckleberry, a Democrat who owns Huckleberry’s bar and grill in Greenville, said any establishment within a half hour of the two dozen casinos in Michigan would suffer.

Huckleberry, who abstained from voting, said about 80 percent of his bar’s customers smoke. Its adjacent dining area is smoke-free.

“In the long run it probably isn’t going to help us,” he said, adding his customers will have to smoke less, presumably outside.

Given the high camel cigarettes, “they should have 150 bucks at the end of the month that they can spend on beer now,” Huckleberry said

Bar and restaurant lobbyists insisted the measure would cost thousands of jobs as smokers would choose to frequent Michigan establishments less often. The decision to go smoke-free should be left to business owners, they said, noting 6,000 bars and restaurants are already non-smoking.

Dan Verhil owns One Trick Pony, 136 E. Fulton St., which is smoke-free; and Cottage Bar, 18 Lagrave Ave. SE, which isn’t. He says he looked forward to the legislation passing.

“I think smokers know they are on their last legs, and it was just a matter of time,” he said. “But I think exemptions just water down the law.”

Jeff Lobdell, whose Restaurant Concepts Inc. owns Beltline Bar, Sundance Grill and The Omelette Shoppe in Grand Rapids and Forest Hills Inn in Grand Rapids Township, among others, has mixed feelings about the ban. His company currently only allows smoking in portions of Beltline Bar and in the lounge at Forest Hills Inn.

“Personally, I’m against the state telling people what to do,” he said. “But, I guess somewhat selfishly, it will be good for our business.

“We already ban it at most of our restaurants. We saw a surge in business when we banned it at Boone’s Prime Time Pub” in Suttons Bay.

Bob Porter, chairman of the Grand Rapids Elks Lodge No. 48, isn’t happy about the change.

“It definitely goes too far,” he said.

Health-care advocates have pushed for a workplace smoking ban for years. They commissioned a study last year finding smoking restrictions in other states boosted customer traffic since non-smokers shunned establishments permitting smoking.

They also argued bartenders, wait staff and other employees shouldn’t be subject to second-hand smoke..

Darcy Silveira, a bartender at Cocktailz Bar & Grill in Wyoming, says the new law could hurt pocketbooks since about 80 percent of their customers smoke.

“But not being around smokers would probably help me quit,” Silveira said.


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