Update 9:42 a.m. Feb. 26, 2010: Reader Eric passed along this story from our friends at the Winnipeg Free Press:
Initially, the hotel, restaurant and bar industries and Manitoba Lotteries Corp. said the [province-wide smoking] ban would trigger economic apocalypse. MLC suggested there would be tens of millions of dollars less flowing into provincial coffers. Hotels, restaurants and bars foresaw mass layoffs and closures.
However, five years after the ban was enacted, much of the predicted doom and gloom did not come to pass. There were winners and losers, but the hospitality and gambling industries have, on the whole, fared much better than expected.
The hardest hit by far were bar and lounge owners. In 2005 and 2006, the first two years after the provincewide ban was enacted, receipts in these establishments dropped by half.
Well, blow me down if I forgot how to add last night. Yes, I know I said the vote was 5-3 at the Grand Forks City Council work session to have the council ban smoking in bars without going to a referendum. That’s one council member too many! I was thinking something like three out of five members, but was in a rush to fill in other details and just screwed it up. Luckily, I also reported who voted how so it’s pretty clear the 5-3 was really 3-2.
I’m short on time, as always, it seems. So here’s a few issues popping up regarding the smoking ban:
Will it pass muster at council?
There’s a good chance, I think, of the council going along with the recommendations of the work session and not hold a referendum on the issue. We already know Council members Doug Christensen, Eliot Glassheim and Curt Kreun are for it. That’s how they voted last night.
Because this issue could hurt bars, or at least bars think it will hurt them, I would think Council President Hal Gershman would asked to be recused. He’s a liquor store owner and has traditionally avoided any votes concerning bars, mostly because of the potential perception that hurting bars would cause more people to drink at home.
Council member Art Bakken seemed cool with it last time this came up. Doug said he thought Art would side with him, Eliot and Curt. So that’s a 4-2 vote. (Checked my math. That works!)
Even if Art voted with Council members Terry Bjerke and Mike McNamara, who oppose the council passing a smoking ban, there’s still Mayor Mike Brown, who wants a ban and has the power to break a tie.
Council member Mike McNamara brought up something that I’d heard about a while back, but hadn’t done anyt hing about. That is, one of the people who conducted that smoking ban survey called to say that when he, the pollster, dialed up a smoker, often the smoker would refuse to take the survey upon hearing it was for an anti-smoking group.
A different person had e-mailed me about this. I checked into it and it turned out not to be such a huge deal, so I didn’t write a story.
Cordell Fontaine, who heads the polling group, UND’s Social Science Research Institute, said the refusal rate on this survey was about 8 percent. I don’t know how big that is in the world of polling — I did ask Cordell, but we ended up laboring over some other point — but let’s assume all of them wanted to leave smoking in bars, that would still be 67 percent of adults favoring banning it in bars. Take away the 3.7 percent margin of error and that’s still 63.3 percent. I’ve probably violated any number of rules of statistics, but you get the drift.
Cordell also said that when someone refuses, he or she is referred to a supervisor, who calls and tries to persuade him or her to take the survey. Is this a bad time? Why don’t we call back in an hour? So the refusal rate is after that.
The reason pollsters do this is because they want the results to be truly random, not just the first random person who will answer the survey.
Bar owners’ opinions differ
A couple of bar owners testified last night at the work session and I was surprised to hear Josh Gilleland‘s take. Unlike many bar owners, who think it will just crush their business, he thought that, in the long run, things will settle down and smokers will get used to not smoking in bars.
In the short run, there’s going to be some pissed off smokers who will decide they’re going to stay home. That impact would probably be immediate. On the other hand, the nonsmokers who claim they’ll go to bars more won’t do so right away because they’re not in the habit of it.
Another bar owner I know said he’s philosophically against a smoking ban — It’s his business and if you don’t like it, stay out. — but doubts there will be much of an impact. The only concern he had was that East Grand Forks bars would enjoy a competitive advantage, which, of course, they don’t any more because Minnesota banned smoking in bars a long time ago.
It’s worth pointing out that the market has demonstrated that whatever demand there is for a nonsmoking bar is adequately met by supply. There were at least two bars that didn’t allow smoking that I know of that went out of business, one was the former Dagwood’s — I never got used to the new name, so I can’t remember it right now. — and Suite 49. Canad Inns has two bars that are smoke free, though I’ve never seen them packed like the downtown bars.