Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New City Council might modify smoking ban.

Of the five city council members who were re-elected, Tom Didier voted against the ban and Glynn Hines supported an exemption for private clubs.
This is how the four new city council members stand.
Bender- Against the ban
Harper- Against the ban
Goldner- Wants an exemption for bars.
Brown- Intially supported the ban, but opposes repealing it on the ground that several bars had spent money building outdoor patios. I do wonder what she would think if she were lobbied by bar owners like Byron Peters who had built patios but still want the ban repealed.

By my count, there will be a 5-4 to grant an exemption to private clubs, or a 5-3-1 vote to grant an exemption to bars.


Jeff Pruitt said...

I think you might be generalizing the positions of some a bit much

brian spaulding said...

I agree with Jeff.

A few of these are not the positions that I've read/discussed with the council members you mention.

Karen Goldner said...

Here is my position:

I would have voted against last year's ban. The disparity with Allen County's ordinance and the lack of regard given for the significant capital investments that many businesses (restaurants) made to comply with the original ban are two reasons. My overarching reason, truly, is that of all the problems facing our city, whether adults can smoke in bars is not on my list of where Council should focus its efforts. However, I do think that in 10 years, give or take, nobody will be smoking in public anywhere in the United States, and the worker safety argument is one that I find compelling. And now that it is passed, as a general rule I do not think that rapidly changing government policies back and forth does anyone any good. There are exceptions, however, and this might be one.

So, with the mixed feelings I have about the issue, I think it is best to look at all of the information that is available regarding the ban's impact and see if the ban should stay or if there are ways that we can accomplish some of the public health goals while minimizing the impact on our small businesses.

That's not really a sound bite - sorry about that.

Kevin said...

Has Harper stated he was against the smoking ban?

When the press asked him, he side-stepped the question. He only told them that he "did not think it would come up before council again."

Ken Stocker said...

On Saturday night, Oct 27, the local band I’m a member of played a gig at 4D’s Bar and Grill on Dupont Road. 4D’s was once a thriving nightclub establishment, but no longer. It is dying. And the one reason that is causing it, the smoking ban. While playing, I was observing the effects of the smoking ban first hand, and felt compelled to write about it. After our musical stint was over, I had a discussion with the owner of the establishment, Hamid Moftahedi. Hamid gave me full permission to express publicly what he had to describe, and my observations of things that had taken place. I do not know Hamid apart from being hired to play at his bar, and it was me who approached him about this issue. Let’s just say he was more than willing to let me know how he felt.

Hamid bought 4D’s from four men who started the place a year and a half ago, and whose names all began with a D, hence the name. After the purchase, renovations were made that replaces all the furniture, remodeled the décor, and added a band stage. A sound system was added, along with a dance floor and a disco lighting setup. People were coming and the place was making a profit. But on October 1, the city annexed the land area where 4D’s was located, and the smoking ban went into effect. Once that occurred, patronage went way down. We have played there several times before, and last night the crowd size was one quarter of the typical nights. I asked the door attendant if this was the trend since the ban and he confirmed. In order to combat this, Hamid invested $40,000 dollars in building an outdoor hut behind the main building to provide a place for people to have a smoke. Most of the patrons that did come to 4D’s entered the front door, and made a bee line right out to the smoking hut, never even bothering to grab an indoor table. Hamid stated that this is not working for him however. It is not an environment where people want to order food and drinks. He said that people have commented it’s like going out for a night on the town in your garage. And I agree with him. I went out there to see for myself. Due to construction requirements, it’s real breezy from the waist down, and your head is up in the warm pocket of air above the open frame of the wall. But guess what, the smoke is still there. The pocket of air can’t be circulated, because if it were, the heat would be lost. I observed groups of people out there where only a few of them were smoking. The rest were not, but went out to the patio in deference to their friends. So, in the end everyone is still smoking, still in a smoky atmosphere, their non smoking friends are with them, the only difference is that they are now standing in a drafty garage instead of the nice, interior where a nice décor, dance floor, and band have been provided. I ask what has been gained by this? But I do know what was lost. Hamid is out $40,000 dollars in an attempt to keep his clientele. But he has found it to have been futile. The expense of heating this outdoor room will become prohibitive in the colder months, and to boot, the people out there are not buying food or drink. Even though he did a nice job aesthetically, the open-air requirements just don’t allow for a comfortable experience.

People are going to stop going to these establishments, because the thrill is gone. With only a small group, it is not lively. When you have a room full of people, it take on a life of it’s own. People behave differently in a large gathering as opposed to a small group. It is just like the difference in watching a blockbuster movie in a crowded theatre verses seeing it in a theatre with 15 other people all spread out. The collective experience is not there. And that is what happened last night. Those that were in the room applauded for us politely, but for the most part sat calmly in their chairs. There were not enough people to get the spark going. There was back in September when we last played. Without the crowd dynamic, that experience is gone. And the few that did come, are going to soon stop as well. They are going to follow the crowds, right out of town.

Nighttime establishments like 4D’s are at a severe handicap compared to those outside the city limits. The Allen county smoking ordinance exempts 21+ establishments from the ban. In September, I spoke with an owner of an establishment not far from 4D’s, which was outside the city limits. I asked him if he had an up tick in business when the smoking ban went into effect. He grinned and said “oh, yea”. That place was packed and yes, with smokers. You could smell it, but for the most part, the ventilation system kept it cleared. A lot better than the out door bus huts. ( to the Ft. Wayne city Council: I am NOT advocating banning outdoor shelters! I know it’s tempting…..) Hamid also pointed out that another disadvantage he has is that the larger venues like Pierre’s nightclub are still allowing smoking in the city limit. Because of their size, they are willing to risk having to pay the fine because they can absorb the cost of the fine due to the larger attendance figures, and that they are attracting an extra large crowd by allowing smoking. Smaller businesses do not have the cash flow to absorb the fine, so they cannot risk allowing smoking. The end result of all of this is that it is no longer economically to run 4D’s and other similar clubs. There is not enough of a customer base in the non-smoker realm that will go to these establishments. This is evident in the numbers of clubs closing. The rationale provided to justify this was that these establishments were on the ropes anyway. But they were eeking along as a small business, providing a local neighborhood watering hole. The loss of customers to the smoking ban pushed them under the threshold of solvency, and they ceased to exist. Many people will consider this a good thing. Many will hope that by getting rid of 21+ establishments, this will somehow make Fort Wayne a better city. But if Fort Wayne is going to be known as the “City with only churches” it will not be attractive to new business. The “brain drain” will continue.

I have this to ask of the city council. Can you give at least a temporary stay on this smoking ban for 21+ clubs until this matter can be more carefully considered? Many businesses have already shut down from this. Places where we used to play. Many of those that are left are just riding down their bank accounts, unable to bring themselves to pull the plug forever on what defined them. The non-smokers did not come in as was hoped. This ban did not stop smoking. This ban did not clean up the air. This ban did hurt a lot of people trying to make a living. Prior to making a go at 4D’s Hamid worked as an assistant manger at a Burger King. Now with this law crippling his establishment, Hamid has now gone back to his old job managing a burger joint, because his business is no longer supporting him. Hamid escaped living in Iran in 1984 and moved to America. I had him write his name on some paper so I would get it right. Under his name he wrote, “where is the freedom?” I do not know how this will turn out for others, but for Hamid, Oct 1, 2007 was the day the music died.

Tim Zank said...

Ken, That was an extremely well worded and effective post.

Smoking-bans in adult establishments is an ill-conceived regulation brought about by weak and pandering politicians with a never ending need to feel good about themselves by cowtowing to a vocal minority of whiners. They love being able to perceive themselves as doing something altruistic or worthy to save humanity. Case in point, John Crawford. I'm sure Dr. Crawford is right, smoking will probably cause cancer. However, I'm an adult, I take the risk, and may or may not suffer the consequences. I may die of cancer and I may get hit by a bus or an illegal alien with a newly minted drivers license. Life is frought with peril, but I'm an adult, and I want to make my own decisions, I don't want the government to shield me from everything they deem might be bad for me. God knows they are not right vey often.

As for 2nd hand smoke killing all those around me. Again, a little common sense goes a long way. If smokers' (in nightclubs or bars) 2nd hand smoke were killing people, there would in fact be, a whole lot more dead people. Life expectancy is at an all time high,and lung cancer rates are steady if not decreasing and I don't recall ever reading about anyone who was hospitalized by a night out at Pierres because of second hand smoke. Is it good for you? Probably not, is it bad enough to harm you? Again probably not.

By and large it's an INCONVENIENCE to NON smokers, an irritation. That is unfortunate, but we're all adults and we can choose what irritations in life to put up with and hang out where smokers are, or go elsewhere and NOT hang out where smokers frequent.


Legally, it's a property rights issue with bars and taverns. No government ANYWHERE should be able to ban a PERFECTLY LEGAL PRODUCT SOLD IN THE USA from being used in a LEGAL, GOVERNMENT LICENSED, PERMIT HOLDING, TAX PAYING PRIVATELY OWNED BUSINESS BY ADULTS OF LEGAL AGE. This argument hasn't been tested in a higher court of law simply because no one has had the money or has wanted to spend the money to fight it in court. (200k minimum I'm sure) When someone finally does (if it's not too late) they will win hands down on the legal merits of private property & consenting/paying adults.

Taking away the rights of adults and killing off legitimate businesses to pacify the hysterical rantings of politically correct pansies who don't like the smell of cigarette smoke is absurd.

May I respectfully request you go BABYSIT SOMEBODY ELSE, I'M OK.

Phil Marx said...

I think Harper will most likely be absent from City Council on the night this comes to a vote. If he is present, I expect he will either abstain or vote to keep the ban in place. I do not think the ban will be overturned.

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