Bars should cater to smokers, too

March 13, 2010

I am replying to the article in the March 1 IBJ where [Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association President Don] Welsh made his nebulous claims that Indy’s weak smoking ban hurts his ability to market the city to visitors and convention business.

Why Welsh would want to step in the middle of such a politically charged issue is disappointing. He received a rebuke from Indiana Sen. President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. In an interview with Norman Cox (WRTV-Channel 6) on March 1, Sen. Long, responding to similar statements from Welsh, declared, “Nobody’s talked to us about that. I seriously doubt that’s true.”

What seems odd about Welsh’s statement is that he must have forgotten that his job and that of his entire staff is a result of the taxes borne by our customers over the last 26 years to fund all of these fancy domes, stadiums and convention centers.

There are only 344 registered smoking establishments, out of over 1,300 liquor licenses in Indy and an estimated 2,500 restaurants. Those restaurants are unacceptable to nonsmokers?

Lastly, he referenced the life sciences as about 4 percent of all convention business. Perhaps he might remind the other 96 percent of the clients that we offer a place for both nonsmokers and smokers, which should be seen as an advantage. He might be overlooking that 23 percent of the U.S. population still smokes and that it remains a legal act.

Our establishments are not located close enough to the downtown market area that we get any real value from the convention business that comes to town. There are only about 50 to 60 bars that generally benefit.

However, [Welsh] is suggesting that my customers and those of over 300 of my associates suffer a loss of business to placate his inability to sell around this issue? How does he plan to compensate us when we go out of business? Or is the viability of local businesses not in his purview?


Bill Smythe
General manager, Vice president of operations
Claude & Annie’s 

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