LLR Pages

Friday, May 9, 2008

Restauranteurs Now Steamed Over Michigan's Impending Smoking Ban

Apparently a large number of restauranteurs all over the state of Michigan are up in arms over the soon-to-be-passed statewide smoking ban.

Here's the Detroit Free Press piece in its entirety:

May 9, 2008

Restaurateurs steamed up over smoking ban

By Kristofer Karol

Restaurateurs are popping off at legislators after the state Senate approved a bill Thursday that would ban smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces.

The bill now heads back to the House, where it's all but expected to pass, and then it will be good-bye to smoking in many Michigan establishments.

'We have no rights,' Hamburg Pub owner Mike Mills said. 'I know it's not a healthy thing to be smoking, but who are they to tell us? It's like them telling us how much to sell our hamburgers or beer for.

'I'm all for whatever we can do to raise Cain with it.'

Mills estimates 75 percent of his clientele smokes and that he doesn't know what he's going to do to keep his customers, especially in a down economy.

Brenda Sears, manager of Lucky's Pub in Fowlerville, estimates that virtually her entire clientele smokes and that 'very few' people ever come in and ask for a non-smoking area.

'I believe it's going to hurt the business, especially if it's more of a bar-type atmosphere,' Sears said. Ninety-nine percent of the people like to smoke when they're drinking.'

Some restaurateurs say their colleagues are overreacting.

Sharon Kisak, co-owner of the Yum Yum Tree in Brighton, voluntarily made her restaurant smoke-free in 1993. It was the first restaurant in the county to do so.

'I had customers say if you do it, you will not see us again and there were some we didn't see again, but more said we'll come because it is smoke free,' Kisak said.

'(It was) maybe three months where business dropped, but then it came up again. As word got out you couldn't smoke, the non-smokers came here.'

Craig Heath, owner of Brighton Bar & Grill in Brighton, also made the switch to a smoke-free establishment in November 2006.

While he made the change, he still doesn't support the smoking ban.

'Overall, I think it has been the right thing for Brighton Bar & Grill, but that doesn't mean it's the right thing for all restaurants,' Heath said.

'Some are complete bars, some are bars that have food, some are restaurants that have some alcohol — there's all different kinds of restaurants with or without alcohol.'

State Reps. Chris Ward, R-Genoa Township, and Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, said they will oppose the bill when it is up for a vote in the House.

'This is yet another good way to drive businesses out of the state,' Hune said. 'Who am I to tell the Bloated Goat in Fowlerville how to run their business?'

Ward said he voted against the measure before and he will again.

'I just don't understand why the market can't sort this out,' Ward said. 'It's all well and good until it's your bad habit they go after.'

While business owners are noticeably upset with the bill, Cleary's Kevin Cleary offered a silver lining.

'Everybody's got to play by the same rules,' Cleary said, adding it's not just the Howell establishment's business that would be affected.

David Beauchamp, owner of Champ's Pub in Brighton, said he has already taken a proactive approach with smoking, including adding state-of-the-art ventilation filters.

The last thing he needs, he noted, is more regulation from the state.

'This is like my family room,' Beauchamp said, 'and I should be able to run it the way, within the law, I see fit.'