Two years ago, Houston City Council approved a smoking ban for local bars. This week, it was announced that the city had spent $12,000 to measure the impact of the ban.
Their conclusion? It had no impact on bar sales whatsoever.
"It's reassuring that we did the right thing. We protected workers who often don't have a say in where they can work," Mayor Bill White told KHOU.
Carolyn Wenglar, owner of venerable downtown bars La Carafe and Warren's, begs to differ.
"It hasn't had a big effect, but it has had an effect," Wenglar tells Hair Balls. "It should have been left to the bar owners whether they wanted to have smoking or non-smoking bars. The city shouldn't have been able to tell everybody that they can't have smoking in their bar."
Many local bars have accommodated nicotine fiends by building outdoor decks. At Warren's, Wenglar is not sure if she is allowed to build one. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission told her she could, the City of Houston told her she could not. Even if she is allowed to build one, she would have to buy a sidewalk café permit for $1400 a year. (She says she has sidewalk seating at La Carafe because she had bought her permit there long ago, when the permit was much cheaper.)
Wenglar has been told that the money goes toward insuring the city's sidewalk. She doesn't believe the insurance would buy her much. "It seems to me that if anything happened on that sidewalk that was my fault or the fault of one of my customers, then I could still be sued for it, even if I had that insurance."
So now she is dealing with the loss of some of her regulars - some of the hardcore smokers quit coming in - and the mess some of her current ones leave behind. "They stand around the front door and now I have to clean up after them," she says.
"I quit smoking over 30 years ago and I'm glad I did, but these are all adults," she adds. "They are over 21. We don't usually let children in this bar at all. Adults should be able to decide for themselves if they want to come in or not."
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