Tavern Guild says business mostly unchanged; only 1 of 66 citations was issued at a gay bar
At the Round-Up Saloon, business is up 10-20 percent in the month since Dallas’ new smoking ban took effect on April 10, including a 40 percent spike during the first weekend, according to co-owner Alan Pierce.
But at Illusions on Maple Avenue — despite the recent addition of a patio out front —business is down a whopping 40 percent overall as a result of the smoking ban, said owner Eddie Bonner.
Meanwhile, at the four clubs owned by Caven Enterprises along the Cedar Springs strip, there’s been no significant increase or decrease in business that can be attributed directly to the smoking ban, according to Caven spokesman Rick Espaillat.
"I think it depends on what your general audience is in your bar to begin with," said Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, an association of about 20 gay and lesbian bars and clubs in Dallas. "A couple people [members] have said business is off, and a couple have said it’s better, but the majority across the board have not noticed much change at all."
Doughman added that even for Tavern Guild members reporting declines in business, it would be difficult to pinpoint whether the dropoff is due to the smoking ban or the bad economy. But he said he believes the doomsday scenarios promulgated by smoking ban opponents are proving to be false.
Doughman also said there have been no reports of major issues related to enforcement of the ban, despite a few visits by city inspectors to the Cedar Springs strip.
According to records obtained this week from Dallas Health and Environmental Services, 66 smoking citations were issued citywide from April 10 through May 1.
Chauncy Williiams, a sanitation supervisor with the department, said a similar number of citations was issued after a ban on smoking in restaurants took effect in 2003. Williams said he expects the number of citations to go down as individuals and businesses adapt to the new ban.
The records show that only one of the citations, which carry a $200 fine, was issued at a gay bar.
On April 18, a patron but not management was cited for a smoking violation inside J.R.’s. Caven’s Espaillat said the patron "apparently lit up in a corner of the bar while city inspectors were there." During the same visit, J.R.’s received a notice of violation — which is essentially a warning — because signs weren’t posted on all doors saying smoking is prohibited.
Also receiving a notice of violation on April 18 was the Round-Up, which was flagged because the bar’s patio was more than 40 percent enclosed.
Pierce said the Round-Up later removed a metal awning that, in combination with the privacy fence that surrounds the patio, prompted the notice of violation. He also said this week that the Round-Up has obtained a building permit to add a second level to the patio. Among other things, the catwalk-like structure will provide some shelter for smokers below.
"The intent of the smoking ban was never to punish smokers and make them stand out in the rain," Pierce said.
Doughman noted that with the addition of a patio at Illusions, all members of the Tavern Guild now offer outdoor smoking areas on their premises.
But Bonner, an outspoken opponent of the ban, maintained that the newly fenced-in area between Illusions and the sidewalk on Maple Avenue — which customers refer to as "the cage" — hasn’t helped much.
"I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to hang on," Bonner said. "I’m hoping things level off, but I’m still waiting for that rush of all the nonsmokers that were going to rush into these bars and cause there to be more business than there ever was before."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 8, 2009.