April 28 2010 12:00 AM

Will the new law boost business at local hangouts, or create more headaches? Opinions vary widely




Cortny Collins has been bartending at Dagwoods for eight years and is elated about the coming change.

“Hell, yeah, I can’t frickin’ wait,” she said of the smoking ban taking effect May 1. “I won’t come home with headaches, smelling like an ashtray.”

Collins is a non-smoker and anticipates it will be good for business.

“Dagwoods is probably the smokiest bar I know but it (the ban) will still be good for business,” she said.

Dagwoods already does well on home Spartan games, she said, and she predicts it will only get better.

Art’s Bar & Grill

Bar owners Bonnie Stacey (Bonnie’s Place) and Nancy Yager (Art’s Bar & Grill) were talking over cocktails during happy hour at Art’s. They had just come from a meeting of local bar owners to discuss the smoking ban.

“Why be negative?” Stacey asks. “It’s too late now — it’s done and the law is in place.”

Stacey believes there will be a chaotic period as the smoking ban unfolds in early May.

“It’s going to be nuts for the first few weeks,” she said.

Stacey and Yager are both for the ban, saying it will probably bring in two or three customers for every one they lose and help solve a serious public health issue. But they share two main qualms with the smoking ban: They believe government is nosing into their busi ness and they fear customers will skip out on their bills when they go out to smoke.

“There needs to be an even playing field with government and bar owners,” Stacey said. “It’s just too much Big Brother for an independently owned restaurant.”

Yager thinks it is a shame the government says she can’t have a legal product in her bar. Each thinks it is also a legitimate concern that people will go out to smoke and not come back to pay their tab.

“Will I need an additional employee just to sit there and watch that?” Stacey asks. “I don’t know.”

Both women plan to comply fully with enforcing the ban. They acknowledge it will be difficult for state inspectors to check up on every last bar and say ultimately it is up to the owner to enforce it.

“If you try lighting up in here, I will be right on you,” Yager said.

Moriarty’s Pub

If the smoking ban had taken effect Jan. 1, Moriarty’s Pub bartender Carolyn Baron thinks Michigan smokers would have been doubly “ticked off” about it.

“I think people would have seen that as a slap in the face,” said Baron, a smoker who has tended bar at ’Mort’s’ for 10 years. “You really have to want a cigarette to smoke outside in sub-zero temperatures.”

The smoking ban doesn’t really bother Baron, who is glad she won’t come home smelling like “stinky cigars and ashtrays.”

man, those cigars are the worst,” she said.

Baron has spent time in
other states where smoking is banned in bars and thinks all the
negative speculation about losing customers will blow over once it has
shown not to.

“Yeah, people might want to stay home more. But everyone needs to get out for a drink once in a while,” she said.

Peanut Barrel

we’re still not sure what to make or do about it,” said Peanut Barrel
night shift manager Jason Phillips. “The city (East Lansing) will
determine how we enforce it. We just do what they say.”

East Lansing City Council has always set stringent rules when it comes
to health codes and sidewalk ordinances, and the smoking ban is no
different. Being right on the main drag of Grand River Avenue, The
Barrel will have to keep a close eye on where patrons are smoking. But
they certainly will enforce it, Phillips said.

“It might depend on where you are, but being where we are at, we won’t try and get away with anything.”

Once East Lansing ordinances are straightened out, he believes the ban is an overall positive policy.

“We are definitely not worried about customers not coming in,” he said.

top of maintaining business, Phillips is also glad second-hand smoke
will be less prevalent, he won’t smell after work and that some of his
co-workers think the ban will help them quit smoking.

buildup has also caused Phillips to order new TVs and speakers every
few years and regularly wipe down walls. He hopes those days are over.

the little things like that,” he said. “It will be nice not having to
get new TVs every two years — those things are expensive as shit.”

Knight Cap

The Knight Cap banned smoking in the quaint, dark steakhouse two years ago and, to be sure, they lost some business
because of it. But the upcoming smoking ban should level the playing
field between them and other bars, said Knight Cap manager Windy

“We did lose the smoking base, but we hope they will come back now,” she said.

Knight Cap has been open for 40 years and Johnson has worked there for
30 of them. She is surprised that it came down to the legislature
passing a bill that banned smoking in bars, rather than letting the
owners decide for themselves.

“Generally, restaurant and bar owners do not want to be told how to run their business,” she said.

advice to local bar owners who are worried they will lose customers:
Don’t worry, “people still need to socialize,” she said.

B & I Bar and Grill

the B & I Bar and Grill in Millett, in Delta Township, all of the
employees and 90 percent of its customers smoke cigarettes, according
to owner Lucy Grables. She has owned B & I for 33 years and never
imagined a smoking ban.

“I don’t like it — I figure it will hurt business,” Grables said. “But we will try to enforce it because it is the law.”

Grables’ employees were more vocal.

“I’ll tell you in two words what I think of it: It sucks. This is bullshit all down the line,” said bartender Peggy Henderson, who has worked at B & I for 10 years.

For Henderson, this is especially true for smoking bans at veterans’ clubs like the VFW and American Legion.

a (Vietnam veteran) crawls around in rice paddies, comes home and all
of a sudden he can’t smoke at a bar?” she asks. “There’s something
wrong with that.”

“Tiny” Sherwood was sitting at the end of the bar drinking rum and Coke
and eating soft shell tacos. He has been coming to B & I for about
40 years, ever since he started working for General Motors downtown at
age 18. He is 60 years old and up until a year ago smoked three packs
of Dorals per day. Sherwood served as president of the local UAW 652
from 2002 to 2008 and has lived in Lansing all his life.

“The second-hand (smoke) is terrible. I’m glad to see that go,” he said.

most other bar and restaurant rules, Sherwood thinks the system will
self-regulate, meaning owners will have to use discretion when it comes
to what goes on in their establishment.

is illegal but you don’t see cops in every bar making sure it’s not
going on — even though it still does from time to time,” he said.


you’re hankering for a smoke-filled tavern before May 1, stop in the
Unicorn. If you are familiar with the Unicorn, you might not recognize
the place after May 1.

In commemoration of the big day, the Unicorn is hosting an ashtray sale.

“Washed, cleaned and half-price ashtrays,” said Unicorn owner “Tommy” Malvetis.

It’s the least Malvetis could do, he said, since neither he nor his customers have any control over the upcoming smoking ban.

“This is the law and I will abide by it,” he said. “I don’t object to it because I can’t fight it.”

Malvetis admits it won’t be easy for anyone — bar owners or customers — to make the adjustment. But as he says, “that’s life.”

back to the origins of the proposal, Malvetis wonders how bar and
restaurant employees were able to stand up and demand this change in
the work place.

“If you work at a bar and it is smoky but you don’t like the smoke — then tough shit, go work some place else,” he said.

“But things have changed and we have to accept that.”