Some bar owners were unhappy when group backed 2003 ban
Dallas Tavern Guild officials plan to stay out of the fray if the City Council pursues a proposal to extend the city’s smoking ban to nightclubs, according to a group official.
“The Tavern Guild is not taking a stand as an organization,” said Michael Doughman, executive director of the gay and lesbian bar association. “We decided that was not something the Tavern Guild could do as a blanket statement. We’re leaving that to the individual bars as to how they stand.”
The group’s decision follows Mayor Tom Leppert’s recent announcement that he plans to seek an agreement among North Texas cities to uniformly ban smoking in all public establishments. Dallas’ smoking ban, which was passed in 2003, now excludes nightclubs.
The Dallas Tavern Guild supported Mayor Laura Miller’s efforts four years ago to ban smoking in all public spaces and that angered some gay bar owners, Doughman said. The operators of straight nightclubs across the city also denounced Miller’s plan.
Miller subsequently exempted nightclubs from her proposed anti-smoking ordinance in order to get smoking banned in restaurants and various other public places.
Today, gay bar owners are once again divided on the issue, Doughman said.
“I have some bars that are still pro-smoking,” Doughman said. “I would say that more are probably in favor of the ban, but they are not necessarily saying so publicly.”
Some local bar owners report that many of their customers complain about being subjected to second-hand smoke by other customers They also acknowledge that if smoking was banned in nightclubs, the costs of air purification and cleaning would decrease.
The ruckus in 2003 led to the gay and lesbian bar association adopting a new policy when it comes to divisive issues like smoking, Doughman said.
“When we supported Mayor Miller originally and took that stand for her, some of our members were not happy,” Doughman said. “They did not feel that they were fairly represented, so we just made a policy that on those kind of decisions it would be up to individual clubs how they feel about it.”
Gregg Kilhoffer, president of Caven Enterprises that operates three nightclubs on Cedar Springs Road, noted the company offers guests options. Two of the company’s three nightclubs offer smoking and non-smoking areas, which he described as unique to the company’s market.
If smoking is banned in nightclubs, customers would still be able to smoke outside, he said.
“We are well positioned to accommodate a smoking ban, as all of our clubs have outdoor patios or balconies,” Kilhoffer said. “We would hope for an ordinance that is uniformly enforceable.”
Nightclub patron Bill Wells said that based on his experiences in San Diego, where smoking in bars is prohibited, he believes smokers will adjust to a smoking ban. Most bars built patios to accommodate smokers, he said.
“I heard no complaints, and each time I go back it seems to be working perfect,” Wells said.
Dallas Voice’s online poll of the question, “Should smoking be banned in nightclubs?” registered 407 votes by near the end of the week with 71 percent being in favor and 29 percent opposed.
None of the respondents chose the “Don’t care” option.
A majority of the City Council members support extending the smoking ban to nightclubs, but a proposal is not yet on the official agenda.
Leppert’s signal that he is ready to consider extending the city’s smoking ban would bring Dallas in line with two other large Texas cities. Austin and Houston have banned smoking in bars.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 25, 2008