Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Point to ponder about the Smoking Ban

This is a reprint from a comment made by the profile Ken Stocker. I wanted to draw attention to it because it gives a specific account of what has happened to one bar. I think it is something worth reading in spite of anyone's person, political and economic reasons aside.


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.

8 comments:

Parson said...

That is a great post and something people need to think about.
The effect the smoking ban has on local bands. It's not much fun playing to a small crowed like that. Bars will stop hiring local talent because people just don't want to go out to the bars since they can't smoke, so it will be hard for them to cover the cost of having bands, and they really need something to draw people in. What is going to be next, "ladies drink free" or $.05 beer. type stuff? It's bad enough hearing that "dollar dollar dollar" radio ad.

Tim Zank said...

Mike, Ken offers an extremely well worded and effective post. (I have copied this from the other smoking ban post right after this one.)

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.

ON TOP OF THAT:

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.

Templeton Peck said...

Great write up Ken. Only one flaw: your post presumes that the City Council cares about failing small businesses.

Andrew Kaduk said...

They are going to follow the crowds, right out of town.

.......10 miles up the road to Martin's Tavern!!!!


Thanks, suckers! Our Thursday and weekend crowds in Garrett have been absolutely SWEET thanks to The Ban.

Keep 'em coming...every time the attendance spikes at one of my band's performances (www.martinsallstars.com), my pay goes up! I'm making over $30/hr plus free booze, smokes and food!

Oh yeah, and I get to enjoy my free booze, smokes and food in the comfort of...well, anywhere I choose: Inside, outside, upside down.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Sorry, but as a long time patron of 4D's there are many reasons that the place is suffering and don't believe for a second it has to do with the smoking ban.

I was a regular customer long before Hamid took over and I was a regular customer for a long time after he took over. In the beginning Hamid turned the place around. However under his ownership it never had an identity. It was a karaoke bar, then a neighborhood bar, then a dance club, etc.

Also, they originally had a couple of decent cooks and served up good food - the pizza was excellent for some time. However, Hamid started skimping on everything and purchasing bottom of the barrel food products - pizza crust being one of them. But it didn't stop there, Hamid raised prices and hired questionable people; some were loyal employees from his other business establishments but were simply lousy bartenders and wait staff.

The food became so bad that I wouldn't even eat the pizza on Sundays when it was $5 for a large or eat the $.50 tacos on Monday night because they weren't worth the money.

The restaurant/bar business is very competitive and if you don't give people quality service and food then your business will suffer. That's what happened at 4Ds and anyone that's been a regular will likely tell you the same thing...

J Q Taxpayer said...

Jeff makes an interesting statement. The bar business is one of ups and downs.

Here we have a city government saying they are doing "what is right" for the people in the smoking ban. Yet, we get a tax break for a Micky Ds. What percentage of thier food menu is great food for the body? You do not even have to be 21 to buy the junk food!

Templeton Peck said...

There lies the great irony (hypocrisy?) of smoking bans, cigarette taxes, etc.

bobett said...

It's all about the money, power and well...We all understand.