‘Waar blijven de niet-rokers?’
Bangor, in de Amerikaanse staat Maine, heeft sinds 1 januari te maken gekregen met een rookverbod in bars. In een artikel in de Bangor News wordt verhaald over de desastreuse effecten die de lokale bars ondervinden. Het geroezemoes is verstomd en de vele niet-rokers die waren aangekondigd zijn in geen velden of wegen te bekennen.
“Wacht maar tot het zomer wordt”, kunnen de lokale anti-rokenorganisaties er slechts tegenover stellen. Maar zoveel tijd heeft de doorsnee bareigenaar niet…..
County bars bemoan ban on smoking
Smoke, patrons have vanished since new law went into effect
HOULTON – Linda Drake can’t remember a time when the Black Duck Lounge was so quiet. A bartender in the lounge, located in Ivey’s Motor Lodge just off Interstate 95, for the last 14 years, Drake had grown accustomed to hearing orders shouted over the din of clinking glasses and the hum of the two televisions hanging above the bar. She knows most of the regulars’ orders by heart and is used to seeing the same people on a daily basis.
Now, however, after the state’s ban on smoking in bars went into effect on New Year’s Day, Drake doesn’t get to see or hear much from anyone anymore.
“I’ve never seen it like this before,” Drake, a smoker, said Wednesday. “It’s like all the customers just disappeared.”The smoke has vanished into thin air, but so have the patrons.
“I can’t believe that the state did this,” Rick Kelley, owner of Ivey’s Motor Lodge, said late last week. “The state really made a backwards move.”
Under the new law, smoking is now prohibited in bars, lounges and taverns, except for those which are considered private clubs. Private clubs, such as the Elks and the American Legion, are open only to members and their invited guests and are exempt from the law.
Bar owners face a fine of $100 for each day they are not in compliance with the new law. Bar owners who run afoul of the smoking ban risk a potential suspension or revocation of their state liquor license.
The Black Duck Lounge gets 90 percent to 95 percent of its business from locals, Kelley said Wednesday, and business is down 70 percent from what it was at this time last year. One night a few weeks ago, the bar sold only $4 worth of alcohol.
“And I bought it,” Kelley said grimly.
Many businesses throughout Aroostook County have reported seeing an initial decline in business or customer satisfaction since the smoking ban went into effect.
“I’m sure that it is going to show in sales at the end of the month,” Donna Deagay, owner of Freme’s Bar and Grill in Ashland, said Tuesday. “The thing that I have noticed since the smoking ban went into effect is that none of my customers stay very long anymore. They come in and leave just as quickly as they came. It’s so frustrating.”
Deagay also expects her operating costs to spike in another area – on her fuel bill.”When you have people coming in and out of the bar to smoke in the parking lot, you’ve got your front door opening and closing a lot,” Deagay said. “It is so hard to watch the cold coming in and have to keep turning the heat up.”
While some people have speculated that Mainers living in towns near the Canadian border may start frequenting those clubs, bartenders in Canada are not seeing it.
“I have barely seen anyone come over,” a bartender who declined to be identified at the Bistro Bar in Edmundston, New Brunswick, across from Madawaska, said Thursday. “I thought that I would … but that’s just not so.”
Those sentiments were echoed at several bars and taverns in Woodstock, New Brunswick, just across the border from Houlton.
Lee Umphrey, spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci , thinks that the long-term effects on the bar industry will be minimal.
“We realize that there was an initial loss of business when smoking was banned in restaurants, but the industry bounced back quickly,” Umphrey said late last week. “It is hard because this ban went into effect in the middle of winter, when it is so cold outside. When summer comes, people will come back to the bars again.”
Rick Kelley scoffed at the idea that the cold is affecting business. During subzero weather last year, the Black Duck Lounge was packed, Kelley said.
“You certainly hear grumbling as people shuffle outside in the freezing cold to smoke,” Tamara Packard, manager of the bar in the Mai Tai Restaurant in Presque Isle, said Tuesday. “People sure are complaining a lot.”
Packard reported that she also is seeing her customers come and go more quickly, but remained optimistic that patrons will return.
Rick Kelley is not so sure.
“None of my patrons ever complained about the smoke in here, not even the people who don’t smoke,” Kelley said. “I feel like this ban takes away my customers’ rights.”
Kelley spent $1,800 on a smoke remover last year, designed to reduce the amount of smoke in his bar, that he now thinks is unnecessary.
Kelley has talked to an attorney about turning his lounge into a private club, where smokers who pay a membership fee would be free to light up. For now, however, he is going to wait and see what the next few months do for business.
“What I don’t understand is where all the customers are,” bartender Drake said Wednesday. “All the people who complained about smoke in the bars before can come in here now. So where are they?”