Where There's Smoke, There's a Business
Florissant bars with exemptions to smoking ban continue to gain more customers.
Since the St. Louis County smoking ban went into effect last month, it's presented a mixed bag of problems for everyone. Smokers resent having to go outside, and nonsmokers say there are too many exemptions.
Despite fears about the loss of business leading up to the smoking ban, which took effect on Jan. 2, several Florissant taverns with exemptions have reaped benefits from the ban.
Cheryl Williams, who manages Gater's Pub, said the ban has improved business at her bar thanks to its exemption.
"We’ve picked up a few people," Williams said. "We’ve got people coming down here that aren’t happy at all about having to switch their bars. They have one favorite bar, and they’ve been going to it for years."
Gaining a few extra customers hasn't brightened her outlook much, as Williams believes the exempt ions are only temporary.
"They’re not gonna stop till they get us, too," she said. "It's just a matter of time until they get it everywhere, which is asinine because it just cripples your business."
Jerry's Lounge benefited from the exemptions and has added customers who have ditched their nonsmoking bars. Owner Jerry Morris takes a brighter view of the ban.
"Whatever happens, happens, so I don’t really pay any attention to that," Morris said. "If it would have went where we were all smoke-free, all the bars, that would have been fine with me."
Morris said in the situation of an universal ban in St. Louis County, all bars would be placed on an even playing field.
"It wouldn’t have made any difference to me either way," he said.
Gater's Pub and Jerry's Lounge are among the bars in Florissant that received an exemption automatically as a result of not selling food. Drinking establishments that cook food had to apply for their exemptions, said Deneen Busby, Media Coordinator for St. Louis County Health Department.
Other pubs are not as fortunate. Gettemeier's Bar, which had explored the option of building a patio for smokers to use, is now considering other solutions. Owner Jerry Gettemeier would not elaborate on his new ideas or why the patio plan was canceled.
"Our business is down because of all the places that you’re allowed to go and smoke now," Gettemeier said. "If it was nonsmoking everywhere, it would be fine, but it's not."
Gettemeier has requested a continuance from the City of Florissant Planning and Zoning Commission.
The management of Brewskeez Sports Bar & Restaurant awaits word from the county on whether they will be granted an exemption.
"We haven’t heard yet," bartender Michelle Johns said. They said that we could allow customers to smoke until whenever they decide. We’re supposed to find out this coming week, she said.
Business at Brewskeez had slowed somewhat, Johns said.
Mattingly's Inn did not receive an exemption, but a heated, smoker-friendly pavilion outside the bar has increased business. Building and maintaining the area, however, has been anything but cheap.
"We spent a lot of money putting this up, and everybody’s getting exemptions now," head manager Kyle Mattingly said. "It kind of makes my father mad. It sucks that he had to spend all that money on it, but he did."
The heaters cost the business $30,000, Mattingly said. The open-air smoking area is screened in.
"It's nice, but the point is we still had to put it up," he said.