Elizabeth M. Piazza
(3/6) Most afternoons, a group of women
would enjoy lunch at the Ott House in Emmitsburg. They would sit, play Keno and
chain smoke, recalls Robert Ott, co-owner of the Ott House. “Once the smoking
ban went into effect, we haven’t seen them since.”
Restaurants and bars are noticing a
decline in business since the Maryland Clean Indoor Act took effect Feb. 1. The
smoking ban, as it is often referred, bans smoking in all public places,
including restaurants and bars.
Business owners in the town of Emmitsburg
notice an even greater decline. Only one mile separates them from Pennsylvania,
where there is no smoking ban.
Larry Shriner, owner of One More Tavern in
Emmitsburg recognized a negative impact. A small establishment, One More Tavern
serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and 95 percent of its patrons are smokers.
“People are coming in, they just aren’t staying as long,” said Shriner. “They
are not buying a third and fourth round.”
One More Tavern, known for having the
lowest priced beer in town, is looking to raise prices just to meet the bottom
line. He has lost customers to Dave and Jane’s Crabhouse and the Four Seasons
in Fairfield, Pa.
“We have shut bands down early since they
are playing only to the employees, it’s been so slow at night,” said Susan
Glass, co-owner of The Ott House. She does admit that it is a bit early to
determine if the decrease in business is due to the smoking ban or the economic
slump, although she believes it to be a combination.
The effect does not seem to be as great in
Thurmont. Vickie Grinder, general manager of The Cozy Restaurant, doesn’t see a
difference after the ban.
“January and February are difficult months
in the hospitality industry as is. As far as the smoking ban, I do not feel it
has affected our business,” Grinder said.
The Cozy Restaurant is unique in that
during the warmer months, patrons can sit outside on the arboretum to eat,
drink and smoke. Grinder expects that it will be business as usual when the
Skipper Misner, owner of the Thurmont Bar
and Grill thinks business has stayed about the same. “We’ve naturally had
complaints from patrons, but in a few months, they will get used to it. I have
heard the ban has hurt others.”
Owners are all in agreement that other
issues have arisen as a result of the smoking ban. Crowds of smoking patrons
tend to gather around the entrances which can be intimidating to newcomers.
They worry that non-smokers will not want to walk through the crowd of smokers
to enter an establishment.
Littering has increased. Even with proper
receptacles in place, many smokers continue to litter the ground with ashes and
Legal issues also concern owners. There is
an increased worry about maintaining vigilance on upholding drinking laws, such
as minors sneaking into establishments and patrons taking their drinks outside
with them when they smoke. Owners are finding they will have to make
accommodations to maintain the laws, such as hiring additional employees to
watch the door.
“It’s a mess,” Shriner said. “Every three
days, I’m outside sweeping up the cigarette butts even though there is an
ashtray right by the door. I’ve also decided to ban patrons if they take their
beer outside with them.”
Under the act, business owners can file
for extensions based on hardship. Most, however, are hoping the situation will
be temporary and after smokers adjust to the ban, business will resume.
The situation is not entirely negative.
The indoor air is cleaner, there is less smoke residue on the ceilings, windows
are cleaner and you can see across the room.
Patrons who previously avoided
establishments because of the smoky air can again return. Still, owners and
smoking patrons agree that the smoking ban was a loss for citizen’s rights.
They believe it is more a rights issue than a health issue.
“This is banning a legal product. If the
government can do this to you, what’s next?” Grinder said.
“It’s taking people’s rights away. They
just keep taking and taking and taking,” Misner said. He quit smoking in 1989.
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