City's smoking-ban borders hurt, help some bars

Scott Olson
July 3, 2012
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Brook Ferguson couldn’t be happier that the Lawrence Common Council passed a public smoking ban Monday that mirrors the one that took effect June 1 in Indianapolis.

Ferguson, manager of Weebles Bar & Grill on North Shadeland Avenue in Indianapolis, estimates he’s lost roughly 30 percent of his smoking clientele within the past month to neighboring establishments in Lawrence.

But come Oct. 1, when Lawrence’s smoking ban kicks in, Weebles and other Indianapolis bars on the east side will be on equal footing with those in Lawrence.

“We built a patio out back,” said Ferguson, who hoped the outdoor seating would keep smokers at his bar. “It’s helping some, but it’s not doing what it should be doing.”

About a month after Indianapolis’ smoking restrictions became law, Weebles is among several bars in the area that are seeing smoking customers flee to nearby taverns that aren't affected by the tougher law.

That’s because the Indianapolis ban doesn't include bars in Beech Grove, Lawrence, Speedway and Southport even though they are in Marion County.

About a dozen bar owners who have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the smoking ban argue that the ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution by allowing smoking in bars located in the four towns within the county.

The suit against Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is pending in a federal court. Ballard signed the ordinance in April, expanding existing citywide restrictions against indoor public smoking to include bowling alleys, hotel rooms and most bars. Tobacco shops, hookah bars, existing not-for-profit private clubs and downtown’s off-track betting parlor also are exempt from the ban.

Wanda Goodpaster, who co-owns the Road Dog Saloon on Southeastern Avenue on the city’s southeast side, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. She said the bar she’s operated for four years is losing customers to competitors in nearby Beech Grove.

On a recent Friday afternoon, she counted just two patrons at the bar. Before the ban took effect, she said, the tavern typically would have been nearly full at that time.

Goodpaster thinks the saloon will find a way to survive, but she doesn't expect business to fully return unless the ban were repealed.

“That’s the only chance we’ve got,” she said. “It’s so crazy. You should have a right to choose.”

Chuck Fitzwater, who owns the Silver Bullet Sports Bar on Main Street in Beech Grove, shares Goodpastor's sentiments even though he's benefitting from the law right now.

Fitzwater's customers still can light up in his bar, and he's seen a slight bump in business from smokers seeking a new drinking spot. Occasionally, he receives phone calls from those who are still confused about the boundaries of Indianapolis’ smoking ban.

Fitzwater, who has owned the bar with his wife for more than three years, sank his retirement funds from 32 years on the Lawrence Police Department into the Silver Bullet.

If Beech Grove would follow in the footsteps of Indianapolis and Lawrence, he said he’s certain he’d lose his investment. The 64-year-old kicked his own smoking habit in January with the help of electronic cigarettes, but acknowledged that Beech Grove is a blue-collar town with a heavy smoking population who wouldn't welcome a ban.



  • Second Hand Smoke
    CK, It's still second hand smoke. If you are not directly inhaling the smoke into your lungs with the cigarette at your lips, it's second hand smoke. You immediately go to the child example. Haven't seen too many children in bars recently. I'm a non-smoker who chooses to go to non-smoking bars, but that is my choice. I should not have some right to force my choice on bar owners. Unless you invested your money in the bar, you shouldn't be able to do that either.
  • CK
    I would and did extend that privelege to my fellow citizens. Any that chose to go to a non-smoking bar. I would never walk into a non-smoking bar and light up because then I would be infringing on those citizens free choice to patronise a non-smoking facility. I would only be sharing my 2nd hand smoke with those who CHOSE to be in an establishment that allowed smoking. Any one in that venue would know the risk involved and make the choice to be there. Children in a car do not have a choice whether to be there or not so I would not subject them to my choice. As soon as they turned 18, I would fight for their right to choose if they would be subjected to 2nd hand smoke or not. Again, when you say "I did not say all were irresponsible" you are still saying some don't conform to YOUR view of what is responsible. Or, even, what "most people" would view as responsible. That is a dangerous view. That you or anyone should be allowed to decide for some one if they are being responsible. What's considered responsible by some may not be the same for others. That is the beauty of a free society. Especially one that offers a variety of choices i.e. to go to a smoking or non-smoking bar.
  • I said "many"
    I didn't say all are irresponsible. But let me ask you this: Is there any scenario where someone breathing in smoke from someone else's cigarettes is healthy? If you smoke do you smoke in a car or room with your young child - would you if you don't have any? If you don't or wouldn't, why is that privilege ok for your children but not your fellow citizens? Remember, all of that smoke is not 2nd hand, filtered by your lungs, much of it comes directly from the end of the cigarette into the air.
  • Just not responsible????
    Who gets to decide what is responsible? You? Anyone who doesn't smoke? Do you work out every day and eat ONLY healthy foods? Do you feel that if the government banned unhealthy food and mandated workouts for "ALL" citizens we would all be better off? Because honestly, if they did do that.... we would all be healthier. However, we are free to decide to live how we see fit. Letting the government and small factions who believe that their view is the only "healthy" or "acceptable" view is a VERY dangerous trend. Please, whether you smoke or don't. Even if you are inconvenienced by other people's "bad" decisions, FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHT TO DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES!
  • exactly what I'm talking about
    CK, you obviously are among the "government as mommy/daddy" crowd! You feel that people can't make choices for themselves. I support the people's right to make "bad" choices. I also support capitalism and letting the owners decide if they want smoking allowed in their establishment.(The market would be the main factor in their decisions). If all bars were smoking I could see trying to force a ban but that's just wasn't the case. The choice was there for patrons to go to smoking or non-smoking establishments. However, the non-smokers were not happy with that. They want to impose their idea of safe/healthy/etc. - their view of how "all citizens should act" onto all citizens. My point is it's a dangerous trend to start allowing the government to make "healthy/correct (in some people's view)" decisions for all citizens. I'm not afraid to choose and accept the responsibilities of my choices. And you can keep coming with the lame argument about my smoking in a "smoking" bar as infringing on your freedom but the fact is, you could have gone to another bar that did not allow smoking. I never tried to take that choice from you. You however decided to take away the choice for me to leave the non-smoking bar and go to one that allowed smoking. I find it a shame that people feel that they are in the right when they dictate to others how they should have to act in what is supposed to be a free society.
  • State-Wide Ban is Needed
    This is exactly why a state-wide smoking ban is needed. Daniels and Bosma really let the citizens and businesses of Indiana down by not passing a comprehensive state-wide ban that included all work places. Waitresses in the Marion County bars I have visited in the last month say that business has not suffered and the air is clean. When it comes to health and safety - yes the government must step in as many citizens and business owners are just not responsible - i.e. child safety seats, speed limits etc.
  • Same Argument
    Righthanded, you can make that argument about any unhealthy habit. But if that's what your argument is, why don't you also oppose smoking at home? You're not consistent. The fact is if you don't want to be around smoking, don't go to a bar that allows smoking. See how easy that is?
  • Free Person
    As a free person I a glad to know that I can freely enjoy life without having the will of a smoker imposed upon me. I find nothing "free" about having someone who willingly chooses to smoke to pass along higher health care costs to me (via an increased insurance premiums). Here is an idea -- SMOKE AT HOME --
    • Well, Well, Well....
      I believe I said this would happen smokers have moved to a place where they can smoke at the expense of owners who have been legistaded out of the freedom to let the market decide whether to allow smoking or not. I'm ashamed of this society that thinks it needs to legislate every move and choice by every person. If you supported this ban, you should be ashamed to call yourself a free person. You have forced your opinion of what is acceptable on the rest of the population and you are hurting business owners in the process. SHAME ON YOU!

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