I'm Down to My Last Cigarette Customer

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Here's a stunning development no one could have possibly seen coming—a state (in this case Washington) thinking about dialing back a smoking ban now that restaurants and bars are suffering.

Enter Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. Both are nonsmokers and powerful members of the state Legislature–and both say that the Clean Indoor Air Act, as the ban is officially known, has screwed up business and civic life so badly that they favor changing the law.

"I think there's room to amend the new law," Kohl-Welles says.

It will come too late for Dunn–ditto some local bartenders who've seen their tip income plummet hundreds of dollars a month. Dunn says she's had to close her restaurant during the day and already has lost three employees, who saw their tips go from $90 to $10 a shift. Aaron Marshall, a longtime barkeep at Tini Bigs, a martini and cigar bar on Lower Queen Anne, has had to take a second bartending job–an extra 20 hours of work a week–in order to make ends meet.

Back in March, Jacob Sullum visited a California town with a particularly throttling ban.

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  1. At the same time, the money that used to go to tips for bartenders is now being spent elsewhere in the economy so if they repeal the smoking ban won’t it have a harmful effect on other industries?

  2. Why do the nanny/safety nazis object to a restaurant posting as sign: “Warning, this is a smoking(or non-smoling) establishment. We also
    serve fake grouper. Enter at your own peril”??

  3. “At the same time, the money that used to go to tips for bartenders is now being spent elsewhere in the economy so if they repeal the smoking ban won’t it have a harmful effect on other industries?”

    It’s not sitting in a savings account?

  4. We also serve fake grouper

    Dang man, you must have eaten at the same place I did last week. My grouper sandwich tasted a lot like “Gorton’s Fisherman Mystery Fish Sandwich” instead.

  5. At the same time, the money that used to go to tips for bartenders is now being spent elsewhere in the economy so if they repeal the smoking ban won’t it have a harmful effect on other industries?

    Jesus H. Christ that’s stupid, even for a troll.

  6. This is expected.

    As it says in the article, many felt the 25 foot ban was inappropriate, but supported the indoor ban. Many felt there should be exemptions for huka bars and cigar bars, but supported the indoor ban, in general.

    There is little chance that this will lead to a repeal of the ban, but tweaking around the edges.

    I am going to bet that those establishments that are losing business due to the ban, are losing that business, for the most part, to clubs that have something else for customers (e.g., music). I haven’t seen numbers yet, but my impression of weekday shows are that they have better attendance than before the ban. I would bet the 5% revenue loss reported is primarily because non-smokers who are now coming to shows because of the ban drink less than smokers that are staying away because of the ban.

    “Between 80 and 95 percent of alcoholics smoke cigarettes, a rate that is three times higher than among the population as a whole. Approximately 70 percent of alcoholics are heavy smokers (i.e., smoke more than one pack of cigarettes per day), compared with 10 percent of the general population. Drinking influences smoking more than smoking influences drinking. Nevertheless, smokers are 1.32 times as likely to consume alcohol as are nonsmokers.”

  7. “It’s not sitting in a savings account?”

    Actually, it’s in a coffee can, buried in the back yard.

  8. “At the same time, the money that used to go to tips for bartenders is now being spent elsewhere in the economy so if they repeal the smoking ban won’t it have a harmful effect on other industries?”

    Then that economic transaction (whatever else the bar patrons are spending there money) has lower net value to the participate, because it wasn’t there first choice.

    However I do think the econimic argument against the bans is a red herring. The important reason to be against this is becuase it resricts freedom.

  9. Hey Dan,
    Great thinking. I want to take this one step further. Let’s see, why don’t we ban everything that some segment of the population disapproves of – dirty picture books, twinkies, french fries, tofu burgers, motorcylces, horse back riding, miming, you name it. Just think of all the money that can go to ‘other industries’ then.

  10. At the same time, the money that used to go to tips for bartenders is now being spent elsewhere in the economy so if they repeal the smoking ban won’t it have a harmful effect on other industries?

    Yeah, and if they successfully ban smoking altogether what is that going to do to hospitals? Think of the oncologists who will be put out of business.

    What a tool.

  11. Who cares? Smoking sucks. It’s a poisonous activity that harms everyone in its vicinity. When people are finally evolved enough not to have to engage in this stupid and destructive activity, they will look back on the era of smoking and say, “What were people thinking?” And they will disparage the holier-than-thou hipsters who thought it was important to defend this cancer-causing plague.

  12. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the smoking rate in New York is higher than Washington, which probably means that all the “Nothing to see here, move along” rosiness we’ve been getting from Pataki and Bloomberg is the usual pack of lies.

  13. Dan T.

    To an extent you are correct. But only to an extent. Whenever people’s freedom to spend as they see fit is curtailed, they spend less. It’s only logical. Unless you really think that if you could no longer enjoy your favorite pastime that you’d turn around and spend an equal amount on something else? Not likely. How much less would be spent is dependent on a virtually infinite number of specific circumstances, but you can be sure it will be less. (Leaving the moral question of not letting you enjoy your favorite pastime out of it.)

  14. muskellounge,

    Fine and good, I think smoking’s stupid and obnoxious too, but you fail to make the distinction between people “evolving” voluntarily on one hand and making others’ lack of “evolution” a crime on the other. Put another way, I don’t smoke, but I support the rights of others to do so and do not wish to control the actions of others that have no unavoidable harm on me.

    So, what do you think now that you understand the issues?

  15. Smoking/drinking/driving/owning guns/eating hamburgers/gambling/riding motorcycles without a helmet sucks. It’s a poisonous activity that harms everyone in its vicinity, or at least runs up their insurance costs. When people are finally evolved enough not to have to engage in this stupid and destructive activity, they will look back on the era of smoking/drinking/driving/owning guns/eating hamburgers/gambling/riding motorcycles without a helmet and say, “What were people thinking?”

  16. Snowboarding, skiing, scuba diving, football, hockey, and basketball suck. They’re poisonous activities that harm everyone in their vicinity, or at least run up their insurance costs. When people are finally evolved enough not to have to engage in this stupid and destructive activity, they will look back on the era of snowboarding, skiing, scuba diving, football, hockey, and basketball, and say “What were people thinking?”

    Beat it, muskellounge.

  17. At the risk of triple-posting, now that I’ve addressed the contrarians, I’d like to offer my own independent observations. I was hearing some debate on the Colorado smoking ban on the local NPR station on the way to work this morn. This Democratic legislator was saying that businesses being hurt by the ban have a problem with their business plan because others are seeing booming business. My reaction starts with the observation that it’s the exact reverse. If some businesses have been helped by the ban, then why the hell didn’t they ban smoking on their premises previously? The only answer I can see, other than that these places were stupid, is that it’s a matter of publicity, ie, now everyone knows smoking is banned, whereas before a particular establishment would have had to publicize the fact to get the smoke averse crowd in. My reaction then moves to the observation that the smoking ban is a form of free advertising to the establishments that have benefited from the ban with the real cost being borne in the form of the reduced freedom for smokers and reduced revenues for the establishments that have been harmed. If one doesn’t care about this loss of freedom and the centrally coerced picking of winners and losers, I can see why they would see this as a wash. Obviously, I see it differently.

    (BTW, the legislator’s debator was a bar owner whose reply was that it was restaurants who were benefitting and bars that were being hurt.)

  18. kohlrabi and RC Dean,

    Quit giving them ideas!!!

  19. BTW, the legislator’s debator was a bar owner whose reply was that it was restaurants who were benefitting and bars that were being hurt.

    Yup, and this difference is deliberately obscured in New York, too.

  20. Now I understand the rationale behind the idea of forcing people to pay 20% tips – tips are down because there are fewer customers.

    http://www.courant.com/business/hc-bizlife0921.artsep21,0,1317701.story?coll=hc-headlines-business

    And that story jives with what was in the linked article: “It’s turning my servers into cops. They are working for tips and to take care of customers?not to be authority figures.”

  21. WA state is a classic liberal nannystate. the city of seattle, and the county of king’s local ordinances are even worse.

    let’s recap. – smoking ban, within ALL private businesses and 25 ft (iirc, it may be 50 ft) from the entrance!

    lap dance ban (seattle)

    seattle searches your garbage for recyclables and will fine you for violations of recyclables in garbage.

    the only state to ban online poker and make it a FELONY despite the fact that there are casinos all over the place.

    Critical Areas Ordinance – a King County version of Kelo.

    etc.

  22. I’d like to add that the bar owner’s bar is this place in my very own neighborhood called Billy’s Inn that very much has that old-fashioned neighborhood dive feel about it. From the outside, that is. I’ve frequently been curious about it and fascinated by it, but alas, places like that generally have more appeal for me in theory than in fact, so I’ve never taken (heh-heh) the dive. It saddens me to think that I may never be able to either if I don’t brave it soon…

  23. Thanks for that link, Russ – very informative:

    “I find it unacceptable for people not to know that the tipping rate is 20 percent,” Burkhart said.

    I find it unsurprising that “bitter waitresses” have “forgotten” that the customary tip has always been 15 percent.

    Anyway, I’m willing to accept that restaurant business is up after the latest round of dumping on smokers – but not bar business.

  24. Why do the nanny/safety nazis object to a restaurant posting as sign: “Warning, this is a smoking(or non-smoling) establishment. We also
    serve fake grouper. Enter at your own peril”??

    Because, the REAL problem is people enjoying themselves. Pleasure is a form of selfish individualism… you cannot be a selfless aparatus of the state, and want to engange in pleasurable acts. If the state is going to maintain absolute control, it needs to eliminate pleasurable activity that doesn’t involve serving the needs of the state. That is why every authoritarian social movement is anti-sex, anti-pleasure, anti-fun.

    Who cares? Smoking sucks. It’s a poisonous activity that harms everyone in its vicinity. When people are finally evolved enough not to have to engage in this stupid and destructive activity, they will look back on the era of smoking and say, “What were people thinking?” And they will disparage the holier-than-thou hipsters who thought it was important to defend this cancer-causing plague.

    They won’t disparage the holier-than-thou hipsters… as Great Leader and Revered Friend to The People whose enlightened policy of strict government social controls ended the era of smoking and exploitive personal freedom, will have sent all the holier-than-thou hipsters (and any other hate-criminals who question the policies of the state) to re-education camps in northern Idaho.

  25. Many felt there should be exemptions for huka bars and cigar bars, but supported the indoor ban, in general.

    The more I know of my fellow man, the less I trust him to vote. The upshot of all of the ‘many didn’t support the 25′ rule, but liked the general idea’ concept shows just how stupid the whole thing was. People voted for a smoking ban when some 80% of establishments were already non-smoking. The 25′ rule was merely salt in the wounds which barred businesses from even being able to build or create outdoor or special terraces for smokers. Because the terrace and outdoor area would be 25′ from the building.

    The public health department poo-poos all of these rules as being ‘not that draconian’, but the fact of the matter is, this ban was a Bad Idea(tm) from the very beginning. I queried my co-worker (smoker) about the smoking ban and she said “we don’t go out any more”. Her reasoning is that she’s not going to go outside and trek more than 30′ from the entrance simply to smoke a cigarette.

    Also, Seattle is full of “dense, walkable neighborhoods”. Guess what that means? You can’t BE 25′ from an entrance. You’d have to leave the goddamned neighborhood to technically comply with the law.

    What’s next, a ban on fatty foods?

  26. Many felt there should be exemptions for huka bars and cigar bars, but supported the indoor ban, in general.

    The more I know of my fellow man, the less I trust him to vote. The upshot of all of the ‘many didn’t support the 25′ rule, but liked the general idea’ concept shows just how stupid the whole thing was. People voted for a smoking ban when some 80% of establishments were already non-smoking. The 25′ rule was merely salt in the wounds which barred businesses from even being able to build or create outdoor or special terraces for smokers. Because the terrace and outdoor area would be 25′ from the building.

    The public health department poo-poos all of these rules as being ‘not that draconian’, but the fact of the matter is, this ban was a Bad Idea(tm) from the very beginning. I queried my co-worker (smoker) about the smoking ban and she said “we don’t go out any more”. Her reasoning is that she’s not going to go outside and trek more than 30′ from the entrance simply to smoke a cigarette.

    Also, Seattle is full of “dense, walkable neighborhoods”. Guess what that means? You can’t BE 25′ from an entrance. You’d have to leave the goddamned neighborhood to technically comply with the law.

    What’s next, a ban on fatty foods?

  27. “It’s not sitting in a savings account?”

    Since Americans have been averaging a negative savings rate for the last several years, not likely.

  28. “Also, Seattle is full of “dense, walkable neighborhoods”. Guess what that means? You can’t BE 25′ from an entrance. You’d have to leave the goddamned neighborhood to technically comply with the law.”

    Yes, and that is the reason changes are being proposed. That is the nature of policy making. Iteritive adjustments to find a better solution to a perceived problem. Those who voted for the flawed version of the ban may have seen this as part of a process that would eventually lead to getting it right.

    Problems with an indoor smoking ban seem to me, though I will be shouted down here, to result from an immature understanding of the nature of individual rights. Virtually no individual right is absolute, and property rights are certainly not since they are derived rights. Given that they are not absolute, when a problem is perceived to exist by a large enough section of the public, it is important to take into account both the limits a particular solution places on those limited rights, and the impact the solution has on the perceived problem. It is wise to fault on the side of freedom rather than effectiveness, but if a solution that restricts freedoms along a particular parameter is taken because of the perception that the overall benefit is greater than the loss of freedom, it is important to have a process whereby the loss of freedom can be tracked and mitigated by adjustments to the overall policy. That is what is occurring in this case. The perception of problems with the 25′ rule have given rise to adjustments in the policy. This is the same process that gave us the ban (with its restrictions on freedom). It is the same process that will loosen up those restrictions in areas where the have a disproportionate impact.

  29. *So if you’re in some deserted part of the city in the middle of the night with a friend who smokes, he is allowed to light up only if you do too.*

    But what if my friend is not a he but a she, and we just knocked back a little menage a deux? In such case It was once a common practice to light up.

    *If he lights up and you don’t like it, you can file a complaint with the city, which can charge your friend with a misdemeanorpunishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months. You also can sue him, seeking compensation for injuries inflicted by his tobacco smoke or statutory damages of $250 for each violation, plus attorneys’ fees and court costs.*

    There it is again. Discrimination based on sex.

    I protesteth!

  30. At the same time, the money that used to go to tips for bartenders is now being spent elsewhere in the economy so if they repeal the smoking ban won’t it have a harmful effect on other industries?

    Jesus H. Christ that’s stupid, even for a troll.

    No, it’s not stupid. It’s in fact the flip side of Bastiat’s and Hazlitt’s “broken window” example. As they pointed out, it’s a fallacy to claim that window vandalism is a good thing (on the theory that it causes money to be spent on replacing the windows, thus creating employment for glaziers and glass manufacturers, etc.), because the shopowner would have spent the money somewhere else if his window hadn’t been broken. But if, for some strange reason, the shopowner got his jollies by smashing his windows every now and again, and regularly pumped money in glass-making and window-repairing businesses as a result, a ban on voluntary window smashing would cause the shopowner to shift his consumption somewhere else.

    The smoking ban is the equivalent of a ban on smashing your own windows, enacted by busybodies who think it’s their job to protect other people from what they see as harmful conduct. I, on the other hand, say if you can afford to smash your windows, and you enjoy doing so, why the hell is it any of my business. After all, Hollywood producers smash lots of things in making action films, and no one (yet) seems to think that should be banned as wasteful and socially inappropriate.

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