Bar Managers, Residents Blow Smoke at Ban
Although St. Louis County approved the smoking ban, many in Florissant are unhappy with it.
It seems a majority of bar managers, employees and patrons in Florissant would rather extinguish the smoking ban than their cigarettes.
The county-wide ban, which goes into effect on Jan. 2, forces smokers accustomed to lighting up at the bar to flick their Bics outside. There is, however, an exemption to the ban in which bars and taverns that have less than 25 percent of their revenues going toward food can apply for the exemption, said Barry Freedman, Project Manager for Communities Putting Prevention to Work in St. Louis County.
Florissant Patch conducted a series of on-site interviews at various bars and establishments in the city. A vocal portion of customers fumed at the inconvenience of facing the elements just to take a smoke break, and managers feared for the survival of their businesses.
A pair of smokers lamented the impending ban in Al's Lounge.
"It sucks," Florissant resident Connie Lindsey said. "You should be able to smoke. That's your preference. They just take away your rights, and it's not fair.
"Next, they'll say you can't smoke in your home," Lindsey added.
"We should still have the right," said Herald Smith, another Florissant resident in Al's. "It's not like we're in California saying that we should have a marijuana machine in the club."
Cheryl Williams, who manages Gator's Pub, views the ban as a tragedy for small businesses in Florissant.
Although the tavern may continue to allow smoking if it is approved of the less-than-25-percent exemption. Williams said it's only a matter of time before smoking indoors is banned completely.
"It's absolutely going to lose us business," Williams said. "A lot of these guys have been smoking all their lives. They aren't going to quit."
Williams believes different business types deserve different treatment. A smoking ban makes sense for restaurants, "But a bar is a bar," she said. "This is the worst year I've seen in this business."
Rachel Harper, a bartender at Jerry's Lounge who was having a drink at Gator's Pub, did not see the ban as an imminent threat to bars exempt under the less-than-25 percent provision.
"As it sits right now, I'm going to make more money because they'll kick smokers out of other bars," Harper said.
Business interests aside, Harper sided with Williams on the issue. "If people have the right not to smoke, we have the right to smoke," Harper said. "It's a free country."
Brewskeez Sports Bar & Restaurant recently submitted a request to be recognized as an exempt business under the new law.
"We filed for it," said Leah Hormann, a manager at Brewskeez. "That doesn't mean we're going to get it."
Brewskeez patron and manager at C & C Custom Rides, Kelly Spence has already begun adjusting her drinking habits.
"I've been drinking more at home," Spence said. "I think it's very sad for the bars that are going to lose business."
Spence does not plan on drinking in any bars that do not allow smoking once the ban begins.
As a nonsmoker who manages a business that depends heavily on regular customers — league bowlers who often take drags between turns — Crest Bowl Director of Operations Mike Flanagan takes an ambivalent view of the new law.
"From a business standpoint, it's awful," Flanagan said. "I personally don't smoke, and I will like going home without the smell of cigarettes on my clothes. But I'd rather go home smelling like smoke with a job than go home not smelling like smoke, unemployed."
Another Crest Bowl employee came close to equating the measure—decided by a majority vote of St. Louis County constituents—with a government conspiracy.
"I think it's another way to control what we do," Stephanie Votow, a bartender at Soup's Sports Bar bartender. "I feel like the government is making more and more restrictions."
As an employee of a bar in a bowling center, Votow said there are certain conditions potential customers should expect in that kind of environment.
"You know going into it that there are smoking and nonsmoking sections," she said. "You're not going into it blind; you know what's happening. People are way too health conscious now."
Businesses that primarily serve food but also sell beer might offer a different perspective than those driven by liquor sales.
"We've always been nonsmoking," said Katie Rodgers a manager at Fortel's Pizza Den. "It's nicer inside for the employees.
"I'm for the ban," she added. "There are a lot of bars I can't go to because I don't smoke."
Rodgers noted that the restaurant has outdoor seating for smoking customers to use in warmer months.