Michigan restaurant owners fume over smoking ban

By Laura Fosmire
Jan.23, 2010

LANSING, Mich. — The reactions are pouring in: Some restaurant owners are fuming about Michigan’s new smoke-free law that takes effect May 1.

“The state has stepped in and said, ‘We know more about the hospitality business than you do.’ Many of them are very upset,” said Andy Deloney, the Michigan Restaurant Association public affairs director.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the bill in December that prohibits smoking in public places such as bars, restaurants, hotels and other businesses. The only establishments exempted are the gaming floors in Detroit casinos.

Tribal casinos aren’t covered since state laws don’t apply to Native American land.
Ron Dufina, owner of the Village Inn on Mackinac Island and in St. Ignace, said that his businesses will suffer greatly because of the law.

“I think it’s horrible,” he said. “You already can’t smoke in the dining room or on the patio. The only place you can smoke is in the bar, and I’ve spent a lot of money making it that way. Now customers can’t even do that.”

But the Michigan State Medical Society welcomes the change. Gregory Forzley, who chairs the group’s board, said that physicians have been advocating a smoking ban for five years.

“The Legislature has finally chosen to act on it,” said Forzley, a Grand Rapids family practitioner. “That’s tremendous. It’s an important public health issue as well as a personal health issue.”

Dufina said that he’ll “end up closing” the Village Inn in St. Ignace because of the law. He predicts he’ll lose most of his customers to the nearby tribal casino, where they can still smoke.

“The whole Upper Peninsula is going to be hurt,” he said. “I can tell you I won’t gain customers through this law.”

Deloney said two major factors contribute to the anger and unrest among many restaurant owners.

One is the power of choice and control that the new law takes away from them. By forcing all restaurants to provide a smoke-free environment, Deloney said, the state indicates that it knows how to run their businesses better than they do.

“Eleven years ago, there were 2,200 smoke-free restaurants in the state,” Deloney said. “Now there are more than 6,000. That’s a 174 percent increase.

“They know exactly what their customers want,” he said. “It’s not rocket science. To believe that because there is no state law there are no choices for smoke-free dining is ignorant.”

Dufina said he is extremely upset with the Legislature and will take action.

“I’m a member of the Michigan Restaurant Association, and we have worked tirelessly for 15 years to make sure this didn’t happen,” he said. “I’m going to make sure our representatives don’t get voted back into office.”

According to Deloney, uncertainty is the other factor because the exact regulations and how the new law will be enforced have yet to be determined.

“There’s a lot of confusion,” Deloney said. “We have 45 local health departments. There are some places with overzealous enforcement, others with virtually no enforcement. They’re already understaffed and underfunded.”

James McCurtis, a communications officer for the Department of Community Health, said the state is trying to figure out the answers to those questions.

“We’re right now working out plans on how the enforcement procedure is going to take place,” McCurtis said. “We’re working with the Legislature and local health departments in terms of how we’re going to enforce it, and whether it will be local health departments going in there and doing inspections when there is a complaint or if it will be police officers.”

Michael Rogers, the vice president of communications at the Small Business Association of Michigan, agreed that restaurant and bar owners will have the greatest hurdle to jump when it comes to complying.

“The biggest challenges are going to be for restaurants,” Rogers said. “A large number of their clientèle are smokers. They have to look at their business model and, first of all, communicate to the customers what the law is and that they’re required to comply.”

Rogers said that the best way for restaurants to adjust is with extra effort in public relations and communication.

“Small businesses, by and large, do a pretty good job on customer service,” he said. “They’ll have to work extra-hard in talking to customers, making sure they understand when the change arrives and when the deadline is for becoming completely smoke-free.”

Rogers said that owners could find alternatives to lure customers, such as specials for happy hour, and that it will be important to give customers other reasons to come besides smoking.

Deloney said that the ramifications of the new law will even affect owners who already run smoke-free establishments.

“Say I’m a restaurant that already prohibits smoking,” he said. “I have a way of dealing with it, I have my own policy. Now if someone comes in and smokes, my own policy doesn’t count anymore. I’m now subject to state sanction.”

Restaurants that voluntarily have been smoke-free will lose that marketing advantage, Deloney said.

McCurtis said that the roughly five months the department has to sort out the details is plenty of time and he isn’t concerned.

“It’s plenty of time to prepare for it,” he said. “It’s a state law now, so it’s something that we’re going to have to impose and implement.”

In the meantime, it’s a waiting game for Michigan business owners.

“We are going to continue to provide answers,” Deloney said. “We’re talking with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Community Health and local health departments. We’re having conversations and answering and asking questions. Some of it is going to take time.”

Laura Fosmire reports for Capital News Service

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

69 thoughts on “Michigan restaurant owners fume over smoking ban

  1. Anything to take away just one more freedom of the small business owner, and the people of the U.S. Didn’t these idiots in halls of injustice figure out this:

    Sign on the door: This is a non-smoking establishment, all are welcome.

    Sign on the door: This is a smoking establishment, all are welcome.

    Now how damm hard is that? You don’t want to smell like smoke go to a non-smoking joint. Want to eat, drink, and smoke, go to a smoking joint.

    ????

  2. As a smoker, I am torn because I feel that even though we shouldn’t necessarily smoke inside the bar/restaurant we SHOULD be able to smoke outside on patios. Between this no-smoking ban, raised taxes on cigarettes and employers going “smoke free” they are being anti-constitutional, as well as employers having the right to discriminate against hiring anyone who smokes. THIS IS NOT RIGHT!!!!! I am also a mother of a 2 year old. I quite smoking while pregnant and I DO NOT smoke in my home, car or anywhere near my daughter and I definitely don’t let anybody else. I can see why you wouldn’t want to be around cigarette smoke if you do not smoke but if you are outside then just sit somewhere where it won’t be a problem or go back inside!

  3. Isn’t it odd that people who are happy about taking FREEDOMS away from business owners and patrons, under the promise of ‘a healthier environment’ even though non smoking establishments already existed. Free enterprise had already solved the issue.

    Socialism is government telling people where and what they can or cannot do. America is self freedom to choose.

    Smokers, non smokers, buisness owners, all used to have a choice. Now we allowed government to take another freedom away. History tells us that once they start, they won’t stop.

    So why do socialists still allow us to do other harmful activities like drive cars, flush toilets, wash clothes, own guns, eat GMO food, get mercury containing flu shots, eat and drink corn syrup, waste energy, play sports, take showers, watch T.V., drink alcohol, submit to airport body scanners, take whatever drug the doctor perscribes, use chemicals on lawns and gardens, etc. etc. etc…

    I am a non smoker that would rather spend the rest of my life in a smoke filled room than spend one minute talking to any hypocrite that supports this ban.

  4. I think those of you saying boohoo need to take a step back and think of the families that are being effected by this! Smoking in bars should have been left up to the bar owners, but hey…thats our government for ya! This state is in a downwards spiral and not many people seem to care. But hey, as long as they can atleast have the option to go to any bar or establishment and not be exposed to second hand smoke! Very few of the cry baby non smokers have started going to these places since the law went into effect! Great job on further ruining the lives of families that rely on server incomes, and keep in mind the amount of taxes smokers pay to smoke. Taxes on everything else will go up, and continue to do so. Just so those that disagree with me know, I have every right to say what I said because it has effected my house hold badly! JUST SAYING!

  5. I used to work in an establishment that allowed smoking, but I had to quit after the smoke became unbearable. Let’s face it–people who smoke aren’t very bright…and a quick read of these posts seems to prove it. (I know, they’re addicted, but quit with the excuses.)

  6. We were going to go to Detroit to gamble at Greektown. Tried to get a reservation at the adjoing Hotel Athenium. There ar ZERO smoking rooms. Reservationist says no hotels are allowed smoking rooms. We will be at Soaring Eagle where they have smoking rooms!! What exactly is this hotel law? Anyone know? I’m confused.

  7. Pingback: University of Michigan goes smoke free | Great Lakes Echo

  8. with millions unemployed the state of Michigan has just added many new names to that list. I have been a bartender for 30 years, now I can no longer make a living at it because of this ban. In my area, 2 bars have closed there doors, one I had been working at for the last 4 years! 3 have mysteriously burnt down,what am I suppose to do now?At least 80 percent of my customers were smokers, now they cross the state line where you can still enjoy a beer and a smoke after work.1st it cut my income in half, then took away altogether, Thank-you M.I. for making my life a living Hell!Land of the free my ass!

  9. To “Brain” and anyone else who might think “the right-wing is taking over” …

    70 Democrats (Representatives and Senators) voted in favor of this law, only 8 voted against.

    29 Republicans voted in favor, 45 voted against.

    The Bottom Line:
    This is not “right-wing”, this is the liberal nanny-state at work.

  10. Would those in agreement with the ban be irritated if it were reversed and all bars and restaurants were “ordered” to be “smoking only”? What if I told you that you had NO choice you have to smoke. It is not your decision…government dictates our lives….No one should make life choices for any other person. If we are all supposed to conform to what those in government deem “correct” then individualism is lost and might as well allow cloning…if we aren’t allowed to choose what WE want to do…then we might as well be exactly alike! Oh…wait….that’s immoral right! Let the government work my job, attend school for me, raise my family, and pay my bills…then I could say they MAY have some input! Until then…I fund my life…DON’T TREAD ON ME!!!!

  11. As a former smoker and 15 year non smoker I think that if a place allows smoking and you don’t want to breathe that air you stay away. I don’t dine at restaurants whose smoking areas spread the smell into my non smoking area but it still should be the right of the business owner to decide if he wants to allow smoking or not. It bothers me less to have smokers around me than it does to have that air hanging around long after the fact. It bothers me more to have the government interference which infringes on the right of the business owner and to have so many non smokers forcing their choices on the rest of us.

  12. All they really need to do is have a sign at the door, smoke free or smoking allowed, at least for the bars. Restaurants OK they could make them all a smoke free area. The problem is where will the government stop… you can’t be seen in public without a coat and tie…..

  13. Pingback: Michigan Restaurants – Latest Michigan Restaurants news – Radio Address: Michigan’s Smoke-Free Law Like a Breath of Fresh …

  14. since 80% of michigan doesn’t smoke there should have been 8 smoke free bars to ever 2 smoking bars the key word is BARS. not restaurants that happen to serve liquor. see i don’t think this ban will have a great effect on restaurants. I can go to a restaurant and eat a meal without smoking. But when I go out to a BAR to drink and dance and spend 4-5 hours there I should be able to smoke in the SMOKING bars and all you NON smokers should have 8 non smoking bars to go to. see that way I won’t smoke in your bars and you can stay out of my smoking bar. Now when that insurance company fired all the employees who wouldn’t quit smoking the courts ruled it was a right to work state and they could just go get another job, so all the workers in those 2 smoking bars can go work in the 8 NON smoking bars if they don’t like the smoke.but instead you want all the bars and kicked us outside, and now you’re complaining we’re outside smoking how amazing. well some BARS will close and other will just charge you non smokers $5 for that beer to make up the difference. so enjoy that drink and we’ll stay home and save our money

  15. I don’t drink and would love to go to hear music where no liquor is served. As for killing people how many people die from drunk drivers who had 1 too many, I know that’s ok

  16. As an attorney, I would like to bring a legal perspective to this unfortunate Michigan Law.

    Smokers – and bans directly infringing on smoking – have two challenges under the U.S. Constitution: The Equal Protection Clause and the “Substantive Due Process.”

    Under either analysis, smoking is viewed as a “lesser-protected” right (rather than one that is “absolute” or “fundamental”). Accordingly, laws which directly infringe on this lesser-protected right are subject only to “rational review” (as opposed to “strict” or “intermediate” scrutiny). Rational review is the most deferretional of tests applied by the courts. This test requires only that a state or federal law be “rationally related” to a “legitimate” interest.

    Of course, Michigan’s nearly ALL-ENCOMPASSING smoking ban serves a “legitimate” interest – reducing the amount of people who smoke/cigs smoke, in total. And a “ban” of this sort is rationally related to this interest because it is aimed at preventing the activity.
    Thus, Michigan’s smoking ban (and those of other states) is permissible under the U.S. Constitution.

    But the U.S. Constitution acts only as a “boundary” for what States may do. This is to say that States are ALWAYS free to provide greater freedoms to THEIR citizens than the U.S. Constitution demands. Of course, the framers of our Constitution expected States to draft their own laws which were above and beyond what the Constitution demanded. But they NEVER could have expected that any state would take away a freedom as basic as smoking!

    What I am saying is that merely because our U.S. Constitution PERMITS such an intrusive law, does not mean that it MANDATES or even DESIRES it.
    After all, smoking has ALWAYS been a basic, individual, American freedom. And by taking away such a freedom (no matter how unpopular it may be in contemporary society), Michigan (and other states) undermines what it means to be an American.

  17. to Fred about that e cigarette: better read all the info. granholm is telling bar owners to ban those too. says nicotine is a drug. they have made them illegal to buy as of this date. It has nothing to do with second hand smoke. If you read the bill it includes chew also

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