Will Brookfield smokers drink at home in 2008? Will Riverside bar owners lose control over their businesses?
No one knows for sure, but some answers will come on Jan. 1, 2008 when a statewide smoking ban in all public places goes into effect after Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the Smoke-Free Illinois Act on July 23.
Those who disobey the law could be fined between $100 and $250, and bars that repeatedly violate the ban could face fines of at least $2,500, the Associated Press reported last month.
Numerous bar owners in Brookfield and Riverside have lobbied to allow smoking in their establishments. Earlier this year, a stop-gap ordinance was passed in Brookfield to delay a village ban.
Some think the ban might be a huge detriment to the local bar industry. Others are taking a “wait-and-see” position.
“They’re just taking another right away from you,” said “Uncle” Greg Gall, co-owner of Blue Water Bar in Brookfield.
He believes bar owners should be given a choice whether or not they will allow smoking, rather than having the government dictate the rules. He says he has “no idea” if smokers will stop going out to bars. “It’s ridiculous-cigarettes are a legal product and there should be venues that you can go and smoke if you wish.”
“My opinion is to wait and see how it affects me,” Chris DiBraccio, manager and operator of Brixie’s Saloon in Brookfield said. “It seems like a bill that no one really thought about before they passed. All good intentions, but they really haven’t thought of the effect on the businesses.”
A lot of his older customers have stated that they won’t be coming around much next year, and he worries that he won’t get many new smoking customers because they’ll be less interested in exploring new bars.
He also believes smokers might go to bars fewer days during the week: two visits versus stopping in Brixie’s five times a week.
“I have a feeling business might go down somewhat, and that’s never a good thing,” said Tom Kampschroeder, co-owner of the Salt Creek Wine Bar in Brookfield. “But as long as they can’t go anywhere else [in Illinois] and smoke, I don’t think it’s going to make a lot of difference in my business.”
“I think initially it’s going to hurt because we have a lot of smokers,” said Linn Clapp, a bartender for 3 1/2 years at Phil’s Sports Bar and Grill in Brookfield. “They should just let owners decide, and if people don’t want to smoke, they should go to non-smoking establishments.”
Angela Casey, a bartender at The Bar in Riverside for the past year, believes owners should be able to choose whether smoking is allowed or not but “seeing as every bar is a smoke-free bar, people will still want to go out and have a drink. So, they will come back to the bars.”
Randy Womack, owner of The Sweet Spot in Riverside said lots of his customers smoke cigars and he feels, even if he only loses a small percentage of business, it’ll still have a negative effect on his bar.
Sweet Spot is a smaller bar without any outdoor seating, and he believes smokers will go to other larger taverns with outside alternatives for smokers.
“I hate it,” Womack said. “The government is just moving into every aspect of our lives. Smokers don’t have any decisions to make any more. If they want to smoke, they have to feel like they’re criminals. Why don’t they just make it against the law to smoke?”
“I never would have thought in my lifetime this [smoking ban] would be passed like that,” said Don Volpe, 35-year owner of the Cordial Inn in Brookfield.
He also has many cigar-smokers as patrons and speculates business will decrease by 20-30 percent.
“It’s devastating. I can’t believe they would pass that,” Volpe said.
Gall worries that the smoking ban is just the beginning and feels the government might slowly take away more and more rights.
“People are just little by little accepting it, being burdened by the taxes and everything and still accepting all this,” he said. “Sooner or later you have to take a stand and say, ‘Hey, we have a right to make a decision. We’re adults and if adults want to come into a place to smoke, that’s their decision.'”
“No one knows how this is going to work out,” DiBraccio said. “It is a big question mark in anyone’s mind.”