Tavern League Concerned About State Smoking Ban

One of the biggest opponents to a statewide smoking ban, the Wisconsin Tavern League, is speaking out.

Workplaces would go smoke-free on July 5, 2010, if a compromise passes the Legislature next week and gets the governor’s signature.

It would ban smoking in all indoor workplaces, including taverns and restaurants, with the exception of cigar bars, tobacco shops, and casinos on tribal reservations. Hotels would not be allowed to have any smoking rooms.

Smokers could be fined $250 for failing to comply. Businesses could be fined if they don’t make an effort to stop the smoking.

Taverns would be allowed to have outdoor smoking areas, like patios.

“As far as we’ve been told this is a done deal now,” Susan Robinson says.

Tavern owners say this proposed ban is trampling on their rights.

Robinson has run Bourbon Street for 17 years and worries her biggest challenge will be making her Green Bay bar smoke-free.

“We’re definitely going to have to raise our food prices because people aren’t going to stay and drink any more, it’s just going to be in and out for food,” she worries.

She’s with the Tavern League of Wisconsin which says communities like Appleton that have gone smoke-free have driven bars out of business and worry that could happen across the state.

“There will be losses, definitely,” Robinson says.

Lost business and lost rights.

Jerry Watson of the Stadium View bar said, “It’s my right to go into a place where they smoke or they don’t smoke. And if they’re going to do it, why won’t they do it at a casino?”

But the bar owners say it’s more than a control issue. They worry that when ash trays disappear, so will their customers and their money.

“I would say between fifteen to twenty percent, because there’s still that amount of people that smoke,” Watson said.

But some say it won’t be that bad. Titletown Brewery in downtown Green Bay voluntarily went smoke-free.

“We made the decision because I saw our guests wanted smoke-free dining, smoke-free bar. You know, we did have some people upset,” Titletown’s Brent Weycker said.

He says it didn’t hurt their sales.

But Robinson is sure the ban will mean bad business.

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