Friday, April 18, 2008

The Royale bans smoking!

Mayor Slay's website now features a video concerning the decision of Stephen Fitzpatrick Smith to ban smoking within his tavern, the Royale. Smith had first polled his customers and found most were alright with his decision. In the first weeks of his ban, Smith reports Royale business has increased.

This video shows that the free market is resolving the bar and restaurant smoking issue in St. Louis. No doubt there is a pent-up market for smoke-free bars in St. Louis. So the Royale ban has worked out for Smith so far. Since St. Louis remains a free city, Smith can always switch back, or allow smoking on a limited basis at the Royale in the future if he starts to lose customers due to his ban. If St. Louis City imposed a citywide ban, however, Smith would be stuck with a smoke-free policy and he would also lose his niche market position. And anyone who doubts the damage to many drinking establishments a citywide ban could do should read this story of Columbia bar owner Joel Thiel, who lost his health insurance, his house and finally his bar to the Columbia smoking ban:

My favorite local music venue, Off Broadway, also recently banned smoking. I went to hear the Schwag play there last Tuesday. Though the air was clear, the feeling of restriction the new policy brought to the show took some of the fun from the atmosphere, at least for me. The policy also created on outdoor party scene at the heated smoking shelters that went on contiuously throughout the night. I know neighbors have complained before about outdoor activities at Off Broadway. As the outdoor smoking scene becomes bigger and rowdier with oncoming warm weather, I doubt that these neighbors will appreciate the new smoking policy. Heavy I beams run across the ceiling of Off Broadway, so installing air filtration machines would be easy and fairly inexpensive alternative to an Off Broadway smoking ban. But I am not complaining or telling Off Broadway owners what to do. I am just pointing out, as a long-time fan of the Schwag, other options for this music venue. But it is entirely the owners' call.

I am considering opening a bar in St. Louis City to replace Magee's, the old home of Jake's Leg. I would only consider operating this bar as a smoking venue. But I also would only open if plenty of air filtration was installed. Jake's Leg plays for a smoke-friendly crowd and smoke built up as an evening wore on at the old unfiltrated, unventilated Magees. But at a new place, 15 air changes per hour of air filtration would substantially protect my employees from such built-up smoke, and would remove all sorts of other junk from bar air as well.