Smokers’ last refuge next target

Posted on 17 Jan 2008 at 8:57pm
By David Webb – The Rare Reporter

Dallas City Council could order bars to clear up air



David Webb – The Rare Reporter

With the haze mostly cleared from the last battle, it’s time to wage yet a second offensive against what many people today consider to be the most annoying of pests the public smoker.

When former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller pushed through the anti-smoking ordinance for restaurants and other public places in January 2003, she would have preferred that it included nightclubs, restaurant patios and pool halls. But she realized that component could torpedo her entire ordinance, so she decided to save that fight for another day or for another mayor’s agenda.

Fast-forward to 2008, and you have Miller’s successor, Mayor Tom Leppert, preparing to take up where she left off.

Leppert’s approach will be more likely to appease the business community, which rose up in protest against Miller’s plan. Business leaders warned the anti-smoking ordinance would lead to a loss of revenue for Dallas restaurants because smoking customers would quit patronizing them.

The current mayor advocates enlisting the support of cities throughout the region to adopt uniform anti-smoking ordinances that would eliminate the option of customers going to a nearby suburb to do their drinking.

It might make bar customers mad, but what are they going to do? Stay at home and drink? Quit drinking? Nah.

This one is in the bag.

Even City Council members Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano, in whose districts nearly all of the gay and lesbian bars sit, have signaled they would likely support an ordinance banning smoking in Dallas’ nightclubs. That’s because they know most owners of Dallas’ gay nightclubs won’t mind smoke-free zones in their businesses, if it can be accomplished without enraging too many customers. That could be the tricky part.

When Miller proposed her anti-smoking ordinance in 2003, the mayor brought the wrath of old queens (some of whom had formerly supported her) down on her pretty head. It caused a near verbal riot in some daytime establishments as patrons sitting on bar stools angrily downed their drinks, stubbed their cigarettes into the ash trays and loudly called her a name that I can’t bring myself to write here.

Even after she backtracked and gave up on the idea of banning smoking in bars, they never forgave her. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she continues to catch hell as the debate about the new ordinance unfolds.

But my hunch is that most bar owners will privately, if not publicly, back the more stringent ordinance. That’s because there’s something I’ve noticed about successful bar owners these days and the key word is successful. They don’t drink and smoke the way their customers do. It’s a simple rule: The bar owners are there to make money; the customers are there to spend it, and many of them don’t like smoke.

If the more restrictive ordinance is passed, it is going to save the bar owners money in air conditioning and air filtration bills and cleaning and maintenance costs associated with smoking not to mention the benefit to bar personnel who must suffer through eight hours or more of breathing second-hand smoke.

If you’ve ever walked into a bar in the morning before it’s been aired out and cleaned up, you know exactly what I mean.

Even if that weren’t the case, shrewd business people make sure they stay in step with consumer trends and the direction of political winds. We’re becoming a smoke-free society

So you may as well get used to drinking your favorite alcoholic beverage without a cigarette because the day is coming when you won’t have the choice inside a Dallas bar.

And that’s not so bad. You needed to cut down anyway.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 18, 2008

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