Monday, October 13, 2008

PA: Smoking ban burns businesses

Those nonsmoking people in PA are stupid mothas. It's too soon to say whetha or not the economy or the ban has caused business to go down. Please!

If a business has revenues that go down in immediate days afta a smoking ban goes into effect then the smoking ban killed the business. I see when you read furtha down in the article, you'll read about a female owner who actually blames the smoking ban for making her business go WAY down.

If you can't smoke, don't go, and keep your wallets shut. Sounds like some PA smokers are actually following that advice.



Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, October 12, 2008 3:57 PM EDT
A month after Pennsylvania' s workplace smoking ban went into effect, Hazleton area bars, restaurants and one movie theater report mixed reviews from customers.

Some say the ban boosted traffic in their establishments, while others say people stopped coming when they could no longer light up inside.

Still others can't tell if it's the economy or the smoking ban causing a drop in business — it's just too soon to say.

The workplace smoking law, known as the Clean Indoor Air Act, bans smoking in most public places, including schools, government buildings, and bars and restaurants, with some exceptions. Bars that sell less than 20 percent in food sales and portions of casinos and clubs are exempted.

Opponents say the ban should have been across the board, and not let certain businesses allow smoking, because it was designed to protect the health of all people who work in public places.

Instead, the ban only protects some workers, said Lou Pantages, owner of Shenanigans in Hazleton.

"I sell 30 percent food and I have to be nonsmoking," he said, asking why the law doesn't protect the health of people who work in bars that sell less than 20 percent food. "Aren't they affected? It's just unfair."

Jason Misto of Bottlenecks in West Hazleton agrees the law isn't just.

"If you're actually looking for the health concerns, the amount of food you serve should have nothing to do with it," he said.

The law singles out and hurts establishments that struck a happy medium between a bar and restaurant, Misto said. Out of more than 110 active liquor licenses in Hazleton and West Hazleton, 100 still allow smoking, he said.

The smoking ban didn't affect the Roads End Pub and Club in West Hazleton, because the bar and restaurant does less than 20 percent in food sales, owner Jim Christman said.

Smoking is banned in the upstairs dining room, but the first-floor bar area is still a smoking area, he said. Even with a smoking area, Christman has seen a drop in business in the past month, he said.

"Our business is down a little bit — 5 (percent) or 6 percent," he said. "I think that is economy-driven. People are cocooning, or entertaining at home."

A few blocks away at the Cinema Drafthouse in West Hazleton, business at the theater and eatery is down, said Sue Hillman, special events coordinator.

She attributes the drop directly to the state's smoking ban.

"People came to the movies during the Depression," Hillman said, noting that it was an affordable form of entertainment then and still is, compared to others. "It's not the economy."

She had customers say they don't want to go to the movies or sporting events shown on the big screen, unless they can smoke, she said.

"There is a large population that is not happy with it," Hillman said. "And smokers spent more on food and drinks than nonsmokers."

At Benito's in Hazleton, the employees who smoke are the ones that aren't too happy about the ban, said manager Dave Mehalick, and they're the ones the law was supposed to protect.

Customers of the restaurant haven't said anything one way or another, he said.

As for business, Mehalick said he can't tell if there has been an increase or a decrease.

The same is true at Ferdinand's in Hazleton, said Mary Alice Lazo.

"We haven't been able to tell (if there is an increase or decrease)," she said. "It's only been a couple weeks. I haven't seen a drastic change."

Business at the Beltway Diner in Hazleton has increased, said hostess/cashier Sharon Garshell.

"It went to our benefit. We have more business," she said.

People also like that they don't have to walk through a smoking section to get to a nonsmoking section, or smell smoke while they eat, Garshell said.

"It's so much better. The environment is more inviting," she said.

Customers at Byorek's Knotty Pines in Hazle Township appreciated its move to nonsmoking three years ago, owner Bernard Byorek said.

"They were happy we did it. It was the right move," he said.

Back at Shenanigans, Pantages isn't sure the move to nonsmoking was right for his Hazleton restaurant and bar. Patrons at his other restaurants in Lake Harmony accepted the ban more easily, because many come from states that already banned smoking in public places, he said.

Customers in Hazleton feel the state is taking away their rights and resent the ban, he said. He doesn't know if they'll come back in a few months or not, Pantages said.

He also said the smoking ban might have come at the wrong time, when folks are dealing with tough times financially.

"Business definitely seems to have tightened up," Pantages said, but he's not sure if it's the ban or the economy. "It's too early to tell."

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