Bar employees, patrons clear air on Wisconsin smoking banOn Monday, Wisconsin became the 28th state in the nation to ban smoking in public bars and restaurants. Some people in Superior celebrated the change - while others expressed concerns.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
On Monday, Wisconsin became the 28th state in the nation to ban smoking in public bars and restaurants.
Carrie Slater Duffy of Duluth marked the date with a lunch at the Anchor Bar in Superior.
“I haven’t been in here for five years, at least,” she said, preparing to order a beer and burger. “I’m asthmatic, and I couldn’t go here before. So we’re out celebrating the new law.”
But the smoking ban has its detractors, as well.
Mark O’Brien, a smoker and bartender at Who’s Bar in Superior, feels he and patrons are being deprived.
“Why take people’s right to smoke away from them?” he asked.
O’Brien also worries the new smoking rules will cost him business, particularly in winter, when stepping outside for a cigarette becomes a much less attractive option. “There will probably be a lot more homebodies,” he predicted.
Up until recently, Who’s Bar had been the beneficiary of stricter smoking regulations in Minnesota, O’Brien said.
“I used to get a lot of customers from Duluth who wanted a cigarette with their drink or meal. Well, we won’t see them any more, and some of those people have become good friends,” O’Brien said.
Rose Gilbertson, a smoker and waitress at the Anchor for more than a decade, took the new rules in stride and doesn’t expect it to hurt business significantly.
“It doesn’t bother me a bit,” she said. “It might bother some of the kids who come here at night for a little while. But as long as we can still step outside for a puff every now and then, we’ll be fine.”
Over lunch with his wife, Ryann Huttel, at the Anchor on Monday, Warren Huttel said he sees both pros and cons to the smoking ban.
“We would not have come here today if smoking was allowed, with my wife being pregnant,” he said. “We’re from Duluth, and we’re used to the smoking ban there. But I don’t much care for government telling a business how to run.”
Over a bowl of chili at Who’s Bar, Dennis Johnson of Superior said he understands restricting smoke in eating establishments, but said: “Some place that doesn’t serve food shouldn’t have to deal with this. We’re getting to the point where it seems like Big Brother is everywhere.”
Wisconsin’s new law goes further than most other states in also banning smoking in hotels and motels.
Fines for violating the law can range from $100 to $250 per offense.
Former state assemblyman Frank Boyle hailed the new smoking restrictions and recalled introducing a bill in 1991 to ban smoking in restaurants. The idea was born in part out of concern for his own daughter’s difficulties working smoky rooms as a waitress.
“This is a life-saving measure for young people, who for reasons of employment had to be subject to secondhand smoke,” he said.
Boyle said that in his 22 years of service at the Legislature, he considers the smoking law “one of the greatest victories” he has helped achieve.
Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said: “I want to thank Frank Boyle, because he was a man before his time on so many issues, and this was one of them.”
But Jauch said overcoming Wisconsin’s powerful tavern lobby required broad-based support.
“Today, on the fifth of July, you are celebrating ‘We the people...’ at its best,” said Jauch, noting that concerned citizens made their voices heard in Madison.
The success of the effort had much to do with its ability to enlist people of all ages, Jauch said.
“It was the young people whose voice was most powerful at all the public hearings,” he said, adding: “That voice really did make a difference.”
Rep. Nick Milroy, D-Superior, praised Boyle, Jauch and others on their efforts to restrict smoking in public places.
“We need to protect workers’ health, and that’s what this new legislation is all about,” he said.