Air begins to clear on smoking ban
Six months after Illinois went smoke-free, complaints locally and statewide are low, and many restaurant and bar owners say they've embraced the new reality.
Since Jan. 1, there have been 230 complaints of non-compliance in DuPage County, 82 in Kane County and 5 in Kendall County.
According to the, statewide there have been 3,913 complaints, and nine fines issued, totaling $600.
But health officials warn the numbers are only an estimate of how people are responding to the law, since several agencies can enforce it.
"There is no single agency that is collecting all of the data," said Dave Hass, DuPage County Department of Public Health spokesman. "So from our perspective, it makes it tricky what the overall reaction is."
For example, in Aurora police have handed out three tickets for violating the.
An Aurora woman was charged on two separate occasions, as she smoked in an apartment lobby in January and a laundry room in February, police said. And in May, a Naperville man was ticketed for lighting up within 15 feet of a restaurant, police said.
Local officials say most businesses and residents have been cooperative, although there has been some push back.
Five Will County residents made headlines when they were ticketed for violating the Smoke-Free Act. They took their cases to court claiming the violations were unconstitutional.
Then there are the restaurant and bar owners. Before the smoking ban, many were furious about enforcing a law upon their patrons. They feared a drop in customers and profit.
But six months into smoke-free, at least three Fox Valley establishment owners say business is alive and well.
What they did still meets the standards of the smoke-free act, and even if other restaurants wanted to follow suit, it's too late, Mark Rubin says.
Before the law went into effect, The Foundry converted its 2,400-square- foot banquet room into a tobacco shop with comfy seats and vending machines for patrons to purchase cigarettes and cigars. Anyone eating or drinking at The Foundry and in need of a cigarette can walk over to the connecting Furnace Room, where they must purchase a tobacco product to enter. The room has its own ventilation system, employees and registers.
Selling tobacco is still legal for businesses that dedicate 80 percent of sales to smokes and cigars. It's also legal to smoke inside tobacco establishments.
But any new tobacco shop that opened after Jan. 1 had to be freestanding, which is why the Rubins jumped at the chance to get a tobacco sales license in late 2007.
"We found a loophole and were able to take advantage of it," he said. "While everyone was reacting to the smoking ban, The Foundry was proactive."
At McNally's Pub in St. Charles, manager Erin Breslin says more families are coming out to dinner in a place that she admits, "was really smoky before." Smokers have adjusted to the change, and still call McNally's home, she says.
In Yorkville, the owners of Legends bar are doing just fine six months into the ban.
"I'm sure a lot of smaller bars that don't serve food are impacted more, but it wasn't a bad thing at all," said co-owner John Pappas.
Food sales have also spiked since Jan. 1, and customers seem to enjoy the outdoor patio, which is designed for non-smokers and smokers. Pappas added that he wouldn't be surprised if more establishments followed suit.
"I don't think you can open up a bar or pub without outdoor seating anymore," Pappas said.