This article shows why even nonsmokers shouldn't put too much stock into surveys. In order to find out the truth on smoking bans, you gotta visit every business in Lake County. I'm sure the ones near the IL/WI border are suffering the most with the smoking ban. A survey ain't gonna tell the whole truth. A survey could even be rigged in the same way Bush rigged the 2004 election. If a survey is messed up, how can anyone trust the results?
Lake County bar owners are disputing a new study which indicates that bar and restaurant business has not been hurt by the statewide smoking ban.
The Lake County Health Department released a report which showed a slight increase in bar and restaurant sales tax revenue in Illinois and the county during the first half of 2008, according to state Department of Revenue data. Illinois' smoking ban went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008.
Comparing the first six months of 2008 with the first six months of 2007, the health department report found that sales tax revenue in Lake County increased by 2.6 percent overall and 6.7 percent for drinking and eating establishments. Data was not yet available for the last six months of 2008.
Barbara de Nekker, a community health specialist the health department's Tobacco Free Lake County program, believes the study shows the smoking ban has not had the negative impact on business that some bar owners had feared.
"Overall, it seems like it's been good for health and good for business," she said. "Despite the fact that our economy wasn't doing well in the first half of 2008, it still shows our sales tax revenues were up."
But some local bar owners say the statistics don't match reality.
Donna Stewart, owner of Bootlegger's Bar and Grill in unincorporated Antioch, estimates her business was down about 50 percent last year, which she blames on the smoking ban and the economy. She said she may have to lay off some of her cooks and bartenders because business is so bad.
"I'd love to know where revenue is up, but here on the (Illinois-Wisconsin) border we're dying," she said.
Stewart said she knows of many of her customers who carpool and drive across the Wisconsin border, where smoking is allowed in bars and restaurants.
When you got people carpooling to go across the border, it's not just the economy, it's the smoking ban," she said.
Corky Anderson, president of the Tavern Owners Association of Lake County, which represents about 50 bar owners in the county, said many bar owners have complained to him that their business is way down since the smoking ban took effect.
"I don't know where they (the health department) got their numbers," he said.
Anderson said one bar on Illinois Route 173 in Antioch just closed a couple weeks ago and others are struggling to survive.
"You can't blame it all on the smoking ban. The economy is a big issue too, but we've got a lot of customers that are driving over the border to Wisconsin so they can smoke," he said.
Joe Gosepy, owner of the Firehouse Pub in Gages Lake, said the smoking ban has hurt his business somewhat but he thinks the poor economy may be a bigger issue.
"My revenue is down, but I know a lot of people have lost their jobs," he said. "I cannot say whether it's the smoking ban that's affected my business or the bad economy."