State smoking ban has some business owners wary

Supporters of statewide smoking ban sport T-shirts with message to vote for the bill. They were seated in the House gallery in February as the House debated the measure. The bill has since been signed into law. Enlarge photo

April 15, 2010

Gov. Mark Parkinson’s signing into law a statewide smoking ban has been stirring some controversy among business owners throughout the area.

Vicki Kobialka, owner of Kobi’s Bar and Grill in Bonner Springs, says she has no doubt in her mind that the new law will have a negative effect on her business.

“I’m sure it will hurt us for a while until people get used to it,” Kobialka said, adding that roughly 90 percent of her customers are smokers.

The only good news she can think of is the fact that the ban came as spring and summer weather approached. She said for now, her customers could take their smoking outside comfortably and get used to the idea of having to do that on a regular basis.

“It’s good it happened during summer,” she said. “We all knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time. I think most people will go along with it because they know there’s nothing they can do about it.”

In Basehor, Pastimes Bar and Grill general manager Janiece Studt says the smoking ban she’s facing now isn’t the first, but she’s uncertain what this ban will mean for her business.

“I’ve been through another smoking ban when I was the general manager at Side Pockets in Olathe, and it hurt the business drastically,” Studt said. “But I’m not sure how it will affect us (at Pastimes) because Side Pockets was more of a pool and gaming establishment.”

News of prohibited smoking has quickly spread in Basehor, as Studt says she has already heard negative reactions from customers. The ban being implemented across the state, however, might keep bars and restaurants like Pastimes from suffering, Studt said.

“I hope it doesn’t (affect our business), but I have already had people complaining about it and asking questions about it because they really like the bar and grill atmosphere we have,” Studt said. “I’ve been trying to find out more information myself. I’m not sure if it will hurt anyone because it is statewide, so everyone has to do it.”

Though she isn’t a smoker herself, Studt empathizes with her customers and hopes to keep their patronage despite the new rules to keep their cigarettes in their pockets.

“I don’t smoke, I don’t like it, but I do run a business that kind of relies on people coming in to have a drink and a cigarette and relax,” she said. “I feel kind of torn on all of it.”

For Mike MacDonald, owner of Mac’s Place in Edwardsville, the fact that the statewide smoking ban excludes casino gambling floors is what has him really upset.

“People are working their tails off to try to run a business, and the state wants to make it more difficult,” MacDonald said. “It’s really frustrating that the state-owned casinos are not included (in the ban). We own our own business. The state should have nothing to do with it.”

MacDonald said he had no problem if the state made the entire act of smoking illegal, but he doesn’t think the state should be able to tell someone they can smoke, but just not in certain places.

“I don’t believe the state should have the right to tell people where they can and can’t smoke. What they’re doing is basically wrong,” he said.

Originally, MacDonald was hoping the city of Edwardsville would be able to establish a “home rule” ordinance, which would override the state’s decision within city boundaries. MacDonald said Edwardsville “led the way” with liquor sales on Sunday and hoped a similar case could be made for the smoking ban.

Unfortunately for MacDonald and other upset bar owners, according to Edwardsville City Administrator Michael Webb, the smoking ban is a “uniform statute,” which means a city cannot override the law. Webb said cities can only charter out of laws that are non-uniform statutes.

“We can’t do anything to alter that,” Webb said.

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