The club-owners present their side

Austin has had an anti-smoking ordinance for quite some time. It has worked well. Many dining places have chosen to be entirely tobacco-free. Others have installed the sort of expensive barriers and ductwork that the existing ordinance has required in various situations.

Now the City wants to change the rules. The rallying cry is “100%.” Businesses contesting the proposal have just established their own Keep Austin Free site. My personal tendency is to symphathise with them. For instance, even before there was any ordinance at all, nonsmoking friends never had any trouble at the Broken Spoke, perhaps because it’s generally drafty, not being especially airtight.

There are often mixed groups of those who smoke and those who don’t. Scholz’s beer garden has traditionally been a place of resort, as was the deck of Nuevo Leon before it moved into the old Carmen’s.

What’s my own tobacco habit? I’ve smoked non-filtered Camels from the time I was ten years old, but never more than a pack a day at peak use and at times quitting entirely for very extended periods, sometimes for years. I don’t smoke inside my habitation; nor do others. Although I’ve done so in the past, I never smoke indoors anywhere these days. I still enjoy sitting out under the stars and smoking a Camel or two a few times a week. And I very much dislike being indoors where others are smoking. Especially unpleasant to me is the smell of filtered cigarettes. I rather enjoy the aroma of expensive cigars.

There’s ample provision for the protection of the public generally as things stand (see title 10 of the Austin Code of Ordinances, particularly chapter 10-6, captioned “smoking in public places”).

It’s easy for national chain establishments to comply with more stringent regulation; many are fearful that the new proposals will be unduly burdensome to our local clubs and dining establishments. Their owners know their target customers very well and what they want and don’t want. Otherwise, they would not have survived Austin’s rollercoaster economy this long. Can Austin afford to cut the margin of profit for those who help so much to differentiate Austin from other cities of its size?

1 Comment so far

  1. M1EK (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2005 @ 3:36 pm

    The market has failed to produce any (that’s any) non-smoking bars or clubs. The exceptions oft-touted (Cactus Cafe, for instance) are that way because of other government agency regulation (UT doesn’t allow smoking indoors, period).

    To me, this is the same circumstance as existed prior to the restaurant smoking law — that being that a huge majority of patrons don’t want to be in smoke, but didn’t really have any choice (if they still wanted to eat out, that was). The market didn’t ‘solve the problem’ as many predicted, by for instance encouraging a bunch of sit-down restaurants to go non-smoking — nowhere in this country has that EVER happened absent a smoking law.

    Clubs are just a logical extension thereof. I have no patience at all for those who hang their hat on sophomoric oversimplifications of economic theory pushed by libertarians — those theories were given their chance for decades in the restaurant market and shown to be bunk – no non-trivial number of individual restaurant owners was willing to risk going no-smoking even as the proportion of non-smokers in the restaurant-going public skyrocketed.



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