The smoking ban took effect in the City of Fort Wayne on June 1, 2007. The Ban prohibits smoking in most public businesses, including bars, nightclubs and bowling alleys. Waynedale business men and women are just starting to analyze the effect it is having on their business.
Marcus Marquart of Marquarts Custom Creations has been operating his custom upholstery business on McArthur Drive for 18 years. His business is open to the public and therefore is subject to the smoking ban. Marcus said, “The ban hasn’t hurt my business as far as people coming in, but it has reduced our productivity. I smoke and so do some of my employees, and now we have to go outside if we want to smoke.”
Marcus said he hopes to quit smoking sometime, if only to protest the increased tax on cigarettes. He suggested instead of a smoking ban, businesses should be required to post on their door rather or not it is a smoking or non-smoking establishment. Then let patrons make up their own mind as to whether or not to come in. Marcus said that he is complying with the new rules, but it will become more difficult when the weather turns cold.
Diane Johnston, part owner at LowBob’s Discount Tobacco, was at the Jefferson Boulevard location on July 2 when I stopped. She has two stores in the Waynedale area, both on Bluffton Road. Diane hasn’t seen any change in her business due the smoking ban, as it is still legal to smoke while shopping in any of her stores. She said, “We did have a huge increase in business the last week in June, as people were stocking up on tobacco products, prior to the forty cent per pack tax increase which took effect July 1.”
Diane felt that the old ordinance that allowed businesses to build special smoking rooms was working fine. “People who built the smoking rooms lost all those construction costs.”
Jeff Dreyfus, owner of Village Bowl on Bluffton Road was sitting in front of his establishment when I stopped by. Jeff’s business is somewhat seasonal so it may be too soon to tell if the cigarette ban will have any impact on him. He has already filled most of the league openings for fall and has a waiting list for others.
Jeff said, “As a businessman, I can’t sit around and complain about laws that have been passed and hope that new laws may be made in the future. I have to respond to whatever the law is at this point in time and make adjustments to stay profitable no matter what the circumstances.”
Jeff did mention that a group came in for a party from Taylor University and said that they appreciated that Village Bowl was a non-smoking establishment.
At the corner of Lower Huntington and Winchester Roads is Key Auto Sales and Jerry’s Marathon, both are in the City limits and are subject to comply with the ban. One hundred yards east is Bandido’s, a favorite Waynedale restaurant.
I talked to Bandido’s general manager Kim Snyder about the smoking ordinance. She explained that even though Bandido’s is not in the city they have decided to comply voluntarily with the smoking ban. She said, “Business was great before we made the decision and it continues to be great. If someone wants to smoke, they go outside.”
I stopped by Minnie’s Diner on Bluffton Road. Minnie was sitting outside smoking a cigarette. She is a breast cancer survivor and after her chemo therapy she is now cancer free. A few years ago she and her husband, John Lukins changed their restaurant to a private club in order to provide an environment for patrons who wanted to smoke. The new ordnance closed that loophole making their restaurant (club) into a non-smoking facility. They put tables outside so their customers could still smoke as long as they are 8 foot from the door.
Minnie said they are complying with the rules but she wonders about selective enforcement, as they have been checked twice by the smoking enforcer. She especially did not like the call-in line, whereby neighbors can call the government and inform on each other. “What’s the world coming to?” she asked.
East of Bandito’s is Pikes Pub. They are not forced to comply with the ban and they are a smoking establishment. Owners Scott Ruse and Jim Tiges were not available for comment but manager Trease Muldoon said business was great. Trease felt that the sign on the door said all that was needed. “You Must Be 21 To Enter. If you are an adult, you should be able to make the decision as to whether or not to walk into this establishment.”
City Councilman John Crawford returned my call and explained his reasons behind the present smoking ordinance. He said a new law was needed because they have new information. A report from the Surgeon General states that even short term, secondhand smoke is harmful to your health. This information was not available when the previous law was written.
He is aware that there have been some inequities in that people doing business just outside the city limits may have an advantage over those that must comply. He would rather the ordinance be statewide but he has no control over that. He feels that someday the law will be statewide as 20 states are now non-smoking.
Crawford feels that the ordinance was the right thing to do and that “health issues trump economic issues.”