Friday, January 28, 2011

Barb Fraser: 20 questionable exemptions

Did you hear Barb Fraser on the Mark Reardon Show? She says 20 of the 111 granted County exemptions are questionable. That isn't much of a basis to scrap a law.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

City vs. County Exemption Lists

Dear County Executive Dooley,

Please check this out. Though the St. Louis City smoking ban exemption requirements are stricter than the County's, thus far 250 establishments have applied for exemption in the City. The City requires that establishments have less than 25 percent food sales, plus prohibits the entrance of those under 21 and limits exemption to those establishments under 2000 square ft. The County only requires that food sales be under 25 percent, yet the County so far has fewer applications than the City. I don't think the number of exemptions for the County is really out of line. And I am sure some of the current County exemptions will be revoked over the next few month if the exemption process is allowed to proceed as provided in the County smoking ordinance.

County Executive Dooley, County establishments have taken out kitchens and fired kitchen staff in order to gain these exemptions the voters allowed them. It is only fair to give this law a chance to work just as it was voted on.


Bill Hannegan

The Ritz-Carlton Flouts the Smoking Ban

I got a call from a Clayton business owner last Friday that the Ritz-Carlton planned to hold a cigar event in violation of the Clayton smoking ban. He said Clayton officials knew about the event and at first moved to stop it, but then relented and let it go on. Like many Clayton business owners, this owner is still furious at the Ritz-Carlton Cigar Club for selling out other Clayton businesses in order to secure their own exemption from the Clayton smoking ban. As we know, Pat Lindsey got wind of this and called the police. The Ritz got a $1000 ticket, but according to a poster on the Post-Dispatch website, flouting the law paid off for the Ritz:

"I have a family member that is a manager at the Ritz and spoke with that person yesterday. They, apparently, believed that they were in complete compliance with the law. They also said that there were plenty of county lawmakers who attended the event, that the event cost them $10K to put on, anyway, and most importantly, in this person's opinion, that the publicity they received from the violation garnered them an additional 30+ members to the Cigar Club.

The manager said they estimated those 30 members would generate around $50K in additional income for the Ritz.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dooley Precedent

If County Executive Dooley gets the County smoking ban substantially changed or gets a new ban passed, won't that be the first time the County Council has scrapped a voter approved law less than a year after its implementation? A lot of us assumed that a law put in by voters couldn't be touched for at least a year. The O'Fallon City Council and the Cape Girardeau City Council will be watching Dooley on this. Both have smoking bans on the ballot they would like to change as soon as possible.

Dooley Should Blame Health Department

County Executive Dooley is wrongly blaming the County smoking ban itself for the current confusion when he should be blaming the County Counselor, the County Heath Department and the Department of Revenue. These folks set out to enforce this year old law in complete confusion, making stuff up as they went along, without apparently having read the law first. Are bowling alleys exempt? Pool halls? Didn't they have a year to figure that out? Instead inspectors came up with freewheeling nonsense about walling off bars, air filtration in the bar, requiring certain fast-shutting doors, special signage asking for complaints concerning smoke in nonsmoking areas and under 21 requirements. Not of which is in the law!

We never said anything about this since the Health Department was being nice and letting a lot of stuff go. But now County Executive Dooley is getting ready to scrap a law the public voted for due to the chaos these County officials caused. So now I have to point this out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dooley to Nail Hot Shots

Word from behind the scenes is that County Executive Dooley will try to amend the smoking ban with a square footage limit like the City's to exclude places like Hots Shots from the exemption. What has happened to County Executive Dooley? He used to be pro County business!

Gatton Spins Election at Council Meeting Tonight

I spoke at the County Council hearing tonight along with two bar owners. I reminded the councilmen that Keep St. Louis Free enthusiastically endorsed their Voodoo Lounge exemption (not a mom and pop bar, I said) and that other County establishments deserved the same chance at exemption. I also said the exemption list would likely shrink as bars had to offer proof they met exemption requirements. I suggested they look at the list 6 months from now.

Jane Suozzi, Charles Gatton, Pat Lindsey and another Prop N guy spoke saying that the bar exemptions need to go. Gatton even suggested that Prop N would have passed even more strongly without the exemptions. But the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services survey shows that County residents don't favor a complete ban on smoking in bars. I remember Tony Palazzolo cursed when he heard Barb Fraser had exempted bars from her ban. "Now it seems reasonable and it's going to pass!", he said.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Please Review Exemptions After 100 Day Deadline!

Dear County Executive Dooley,

County establishments currently exempt from the smoking ban have to prove to the Director of Revenue within 100 days that they qualify for an exemption from the smoking ban. Many, many establishments like Hot Shots, though they clearly believed they would be exempt at the time the smoking ban passed in 2009, might well not remain exempt after the Director of Revenue reviews their application. Why not wait to see how many establishments are still exempt after the 100 day deadline? The number might be close to former Councilman Barbara Fraser's original projection. Why not hold off action until then? Here is the 100 day requirement set forth in the smoking ban:

"2. Any drinking establishment granted an exemption under subsection (b) above shall submit to the Director of Revenue, no more than one hundred (100) days after issuance of a certificate of exemption, a signed and notarized statement by the owner or operator identifying the actual gross revenue and liquor sales for the previous ninety (90) days of operation. The Director of Revenue shall suspend or revoke any certificate of exemption issued under subsection (b) if this certification is not timely provided or if the certificate fails to demonstrate that the drinking establishment derived a maximum of twenty-five (25) percent of its gross revenue from the sale of food during that period."


Bill Hannegan

Letter to County Executive Dooley

Dear County Executive Dooley,

The County smoking ban has been in place for less than a month. Hot Shots, along with many of the other currently exempted establishments, might not keep its exemption for long as the Health Department and Department of Revenue sort things out over the next few weeks. Back when she proposed this law, Barbara Fraser stated her ban would probably exempt 60 or so drinking establishments and the final number exempted may well be close to that. But why go after locally owned Hot Shots at this point when Harrah's Voodoo Lounge just got voted an exemption by the Council? Please be patient with this law as the people voted it in, unless you want to make it truly rational and fair by exempting all "over 18" establishments. That would simplify everything, be in accord with the will of County voters, and would indeed tighten the current smoking ban which now allows smoking in establishments those under 18 can still enter. An "over 18" exemption would treat all County businesses equally since any business could allow smoking by simply keeping kids out. The Tennessee smoking ban exempts "over 21" workplaces and so keeps kids away from smoke without unduly limiting personal freedom or hurting the bar business. Please find the Tennessee smoking ban attached.


Bill Hannegan

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Clayton Officials Join Rebellion Against Local Smoking Bans

I have gone over the Clayton smoking ban and find nothing that allows cigar smoking in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom tonight. Word is that Clayton authorities initially moved to stop the cigar smoking event, but later decided to flout their own law tonight. I am glad that the Clayton smoking ban is apparently being rolled back, even for one night.

A lot of Clayton businesses still resent that the Ritz-Carlton Cigar Club sold them out in exchange for an exemption by the Clayton Board of Aldermen from Mayor Goldstein's smoking ban. We believe that if the Ritz-Carlton Cigar Club had joined the Clayton Restaurateur's Alliance in opposition to the smoking ban, the whole smoking ban process in St. Louis could have stopped. St. Louis City and County, as well as Clayton itself, might not have a smoking ban right now if the Ritz-Carlton Cigar Club had been loyal to fellow Clayton businesses.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Letter Mississippi Senate and House Public Health Committees Chairmen

Dear Representative Holland and Senator Bryan,

I am writing to warn you concerning promises made to your committees by public health officials that a statewide smoking ban would slash heart attack rates in Mississippi. Previous small studies did seem support such a promise. But a just published comprehensive, national study by researchers from the Rand Corporation, University of Wisconsin and Stanford University now shows that this hope has no basis. Heart attack rates are actually as likely to rise as to fall in communities that impose smoking bans. Mortality and hospitalization rates are also unaffected by smoking bans. Surprisingly though, emergency room visits for asthma attacks do increase as people smoke more in homes and cars near sensitive nonsmokers, especially children, rather than in ventilated bars and restaurants. Please find this new study, Changes in U.S. Hospitalization and Mortality Rates Following Smoking Bans, attached to this e-mail.

Please also find attached studies by St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank and University of Wisconsin economists which show that smoking bans do negatively impact the hospitality industry. Studies which find smoking bans do not harm businesses are almost always conducted public health people, not economists. When economist look at smoking bans, they find economic damage. Such economic damage from smoking bans is discussed by economist Dr. Jon Tomlin in a recent Forbes Magazine column. Testimony from economists such as Dr. Tomlin caused St. Louis to exempt bars and casinos from its recently passed smoking ban. I thought I would send this information along to your committees as you consider a smoking ban for Mississippi.


Bill Hannegan

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Letter to County Health Director Gunn

Dear Director Gunn,

I read that in a recent Post-Dispatch article that some controversy exists as to whether or not pool halls can, in some instances, be exempted from the County smoking ban as a drinking establishments. Director Gunn, I attended all public deliberations by the County Council concerning the smoking ban, and was privy to many of the private deliberations of the Councilmen, and it was clear to everyone involved at all times that some pool halls would be exempt under the then proposed smoking ban as drinking establishments or bars. I want to point out to you today's Post-Dispatch/Suburban Journal article, "Behind the 8 Ball, Pool Halls Struggling", in which some pool halls are twice referred to as bars, not sports arenas:

"Jason Bowman, a spokesman for the American Poolplayers Association, said bars with pool tables seem to be have better numbers. More serious players may not spend as much on food and drink, but bars and taverns that devote themselves to the casual league players may be more successful, Bowman said.
On league nights from Sunday to Thursdays, the 28 tables are filled with billiards players intent on cinching shots. It helps that Baxter's is a bar and serves food, Lay said.

Clearly common sense language and thinking is on the side of classing establishments with many pool tables, whose main revenue source is the sale of alcohol, as drinking establishments or bars, not sports arenas.


Bill Hannegan
314.315.3779 (cell)