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 Update on California Smoking Ban in Bars

SAN FRANCISCO, April 13, 1998  -  On behalf of its more than 300,000 members and adult smokers in California, the National Smokers Alliance continues to oppose the California smoking ban and is working with California businesses and individuals to urge repeal of the ban. This "Prohibition Update" is part of a series, designed to inform interested parties about the impact of and reaction to the law on a statewide basis. These news briefs are documented from published and private sources and more detail can be provided upon request.

San Diego Police Vice Squad Labeled as 'Smoking Cops'

San Diego, April 4 -- According to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the city's police vice squad spent the weekend citing establishments that were catering to their smoking clientele. The allocation of taxpayer resources for smoking raids has many local business owners angry. "When I first heard about the sweep, I thought it was a joke," said Dan Sobarnia owner of Rosie O'Grady's in San Diego. "It's a waste of my tax dollars to send a vice squad of police detectives into bars looking for smokers." The Union-Tribune reported that the police vice squad cited 16 people for violating the new smoking ban. This is the second time San Diego police detectives have spent taxpayer time and resources enforcing the three month old ban. "I'd like to know how many serious crimes were being committed while these detectives were out hassling smokers and bar owners," said Sobarnia. "I can't believe that my taxes are going towards paying the salaries of smoking cops."

Revenues, Shifts and Tips All Sinking

Riverside, April 10 -- Since January 1, business has plummeted at Art's Bar and Grill in Riverside and manager Paula Jones blames it all on the statewide smoking ban. Jones complains that, after suffering revenue losses nearing 40%, she was forced to cut employee shifts and take on an additional 20 hours on top of her full time schedule. "At first it was a nightmare," said Jones. "Our customers are usually the reserved business type. However, once this law went into effect we had non-smokers yelling at smokers and all kinds of disturbances. So, now my smoking customers just aren't coming in as often. When they do drop in for drinks they usually just have one, and run."

Jones attempted to prevent any more customer loss by building an outdoor smoking patio. Because of local ordinances, however, even that has proven to be a problem. Jones and her father submitted plans to the city in early January but, after revising those plans twice, they still await approval. "The city is making it so difficult. With the loss of revenue from the ban, added to the estimated $30,000 it will cost to build this patio, the last thing I want to deal with is bureaucratic red tape," said Jones.

Bar Owner Still Waiting for Non-Smoking Customers to Arrive

Watsonville, April 10 -- Angela Davis, owner of the Mount Madonna Inn in Watsonville, has been watching the smoking ban hurt her employees and her business for more than three months now. She estimates a 90% loss in bar revenues since the beginning of the year.

"The majority of my regulars have quit coming in here, period," Davis said. "Where are the non-smoking customers I was told would keep me in business?"

Mount Madonna Inn employs seven people, all of whom smoke. These employees have all experienced decreased tips and had their hours cut back as former patrons stay home instead of going out to drink. "What I don't understand is why the employees can't have the choice to work in a smoking or a non-smoking bar based on their preference," said Davis. Davis claims that her bar business has been hurt because customers from the adjoining restaurant are choosing not to have drinks after their meal since they cannot smoke.
Davis concluded: "The government is trying to run our lives and dictate how I can run my business. That's not the way it's supposed to be."

Upscale Bar Takes First Class Beating as Revenues Plummet

San Bernardino, April 13 -- Bill Fowles, owner of Players in San Bernardino, has seen revenues decrease by nearly 60% in his upscale establishment as a result of the smoking ban. Fowles has already been forced to lay off four employees and foresees even more layoffs in the near future.

"This ban has sucked the life right out of Players. If people think that only mom and pop bars and small taverns are being affected, they are sorely mistaken," said Fowles. Players is one of many establishments located in an outdoor strip mall in San Bernardino. Because of limited spacing, the option of building an outdoor patio for smokers is an impossibility. "I don't know what to do. I am unable to build a patio and the law does not allow me to set up a smoking room or any other accommodations for my smoking customers," said Fowles. "The way I see it, I have two options; noncompliance or bankruptcy."

Comedian Drew Carey Hosts Los Angeles Smoke-In

West Hollywood, March 31 -- "Enjoy a little civil disobedience before lunch," read the flyers distributed to announce a smoke-in hosted by comedian Drew Carey. Carey, along with author Jacob Sullum and Reason magazine, organized a Los Angeles based smoke-in to protest California's new smoking ban in bars, taverns and gaming clubs.

According to an April 1 article in the Daily News of Los Angeles, "Carey was joined by at least a dozen other protesters smoking cigars and cigarettes," at Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood. Carey, a nonsmoker, told the crowd why he is opposed to the smoking ban in bars: "I don't think there should be a total ban. It should be up to each bar owner and patron to decide if they want to smoke or not."

On April 1, USA Today reported that the smoke-in was Carey's first experience at protesting. USA Today also said that the action was prompted because Carey, a non-smoker, wanted to "protest this insane, unreasonable law." The smoke-in was also used to promote Jacob Sullum's book, For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health, due in stores April 8.

Smoking Ban Produces Four More Casualties

Simi Valley, April 6 -- Mixer's Bar in Simi Valley this week joined the growing list of businesses crippled by California's ban on smoking in bars. After enduring heavy losses for nearly three months, owner Sam Rafeh had to cut overhead by laying off four employees.

Carl Butler, one of Mixer's former employees, commented on the effects of the ban: "We used to have over three hundred people on Friday and Saturday nights before the ban. Now we are lucky to get forty customers on those nights." Rafeh agreed: "We have gone from $4,000 in sales to about $1,200 a night on weekends, a 70% drop in sales. On the whole, our revenues are down 40-50% since the ban took effect." Mystified by the conflicting intent and reality of the no-smoking law, Rafeh stated: "They want to protect the employees but 90% of them smoke. This law is costing them their jobs. What kind of protection is that?" A very frustrated Craig Butler proclaimed: "After all these years as a bartender I can protect myself. I just want my job back!"

Marina Bar Employees and Patrons Hassled by Police

Marina, April 6 -- The Marina Police Department went on a city wide bar raid last month, citing bar owners, bartenders and customers found in violation of the statewide smoking ban. Since the law went into effect on January 1, several law enforcement agencies have reportedly spent considerable time and taxpayer resources looking for violators of the law.

Pam Chapman, a bartender at the Gold Rush, was one of several cited in Madera. Chapman, like most bar owners and employees, believes that it is not her job to enforce the law. "My understanding of the law is that we are only obligated to post signs and inform clientele that it is illegal to smoke," said Chapman. "I am not going to forcibly remove a cigarette, or anything for that matter, from any of my customers." Chapman, along with several other employees, owners and patrons, must appear in court on April 14 to respond to the charges. Chapman is confident that the judge will find she fulfilled her requirements under the law. "I've been warning customers about this crazy law since January," continued Chapman. "What really frustrates me is the fact that this whole thing is not about smoking, but about control. How far will California government go to control the action?"

Former Bar Patrons and Employees Must Look for 'Someplace Else'

Madera, April 6 -- Former patrons and employees of Someplace Else Again bar in Madera are looking for just that, "someplace else." Since January 1, because the establishment began complying with California's statewide smoking ban, patrons have avoided the Madera establishment, opting to go where they can smoke. Owner, Mike Tabor claims he will be forced out of business by the end of the month as a direct result of the ban.

"We just can't make ends meet," explained Tabor. "Our revenues have been devastated. We're lucky if we pull in sixty dollars a night. People don't want to come to a bar where they can't smoke." Along with its dwindling clientele, the Someplace Else Again will be saying good-bye to its five employees when it closes its doors for the last time. "I think it's important that people hear stories like mine," continued Tabor. "This ban is killing people's livelihoods. Those who supported and implemented the ban said that wouldn't have any serious effect on my business. My doors are closing and five people are out of work. I'd call that a serious effect."


Sharon Hawkins or Brandon Castillo National Smokers Alliance, 916-341-1000

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