Local businesses react to new smoking ban

| Editor in Chief

Smoking ban exemptions

  • “Drinking establishments” that derive 25 percent or less of their revenue for food. In St. Louis City, “drinking establishments” must be 2,000 square feet or less (minus kitchen, storage and restroom areas) and have applied for exemption (exemption expires in Jan 2015)
  • Casinos
  • Retail tobacco stores (60 percent or more of revenue from sale of tobacco; 50 percent or more if in St. Louis City)
  • Cigar bars
  • Outdoor dining areas
  • Private clubs (not exempt when open to the public)
  • Private residences not serving as a place of employment
  • 20 percent of hotel or motel rooms (if designated)

Note: The drinking establishment and cigar bar exemption states smoke must not infiltrate into areas otherwise prohibited by the ordinance.

Confusion surrounded the Jan. 2 implementation of smoking bans passed by both the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, but overall reaction to the bans has been largely positive.

The bans, put into effect by a vote in the fall of 2009 after heavy lobbying from local public health advocates, prohibit tobacco use in all of the nearly 1750 bars in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

There are exemptions to the ban, however.

City bars smaller than 2000 square feet can qualify for an exemption if less than 25 percent of their sales come from food. All County bars that rely on alcohol sales for over 75 percent of their revenue are exempt.

The City of St. Louis’ staff of 16 health inspectors is currently working to inspect the approximately 250 local establishments that have applied for exemptions. Many bar owners, confused about the regulations surrounding exemptions, have continued to allow patrons to smoke while their applications are pending.

“There has definitely been a lot of confusion,” said senior Kenny Hofmeister, a smoker. “[At the beginning], people didn’t know which places were and weren’t exempt; a lot of times the bans weren’t being enforced too severely. Some bar owners didn’t really know if they were or weren’t exempt.”

Joe Edwards, the owner of Blueberry Hill, The Pin-Up Bowl and Eclipse Restaurant at Moonrise Hotel, all on the Delmar Loop, also called the exemption rules “confusing.” But Edwards said the ban has had a positive effect on the Loop so far.

“People are really excited that they don’t have smoke in their hair and their clothes,” Edwards said. “There are a few people who are wistful for [smoking], but they realized that this was coming—we were one of the last metropolitan areas to ban smoking in restaurants and bars.”

Edwards said that The Pin-Up Bowl has already seen an increase in reservations for children’s parties from families who no longer need to be concerned about the health risks associated with exposing their children to secondhand smoke.

Hofmeister said that the ban has not had overly negative effects on his social life.

“Even if you’re a smoker, it’s still kind of gross to come home reeking of smoke,” he said. “I haven’t heard a ton of complaints.”

Hofmeister added that many establishments that are popular among students, such as Off Broadway, Morgan Street and Edwards’ Moonrise, offer outdoor terraces where patrons may smoke. And Edwards is working to accommodate smokers with a new heated smoking porch at Blueberry Hill that will be completed this week.

“The idea behind Blueberry Hill is to try to make everyone feel comfortable,” Edwards said. “I’m happy to work to try to make everyone happy.”

  • Philip Christofanelli

    Kate, I really have to hand it to you for this one. I’m fairly certain your bias would make Pravda blush. I’d invite you to come out to the Hill to see another side of the story. You can talk to my bartending and server friends about how the smoking ban has them looking for employment elsewhere. Then you can meet some of the small business owners around here that will likely have to close up shop as their regulars avail themselves to the smoking establishments in nearby Jeff County. Turns out some people just aren’t as lucky as the folks with a captive audience at the Loop. But hey, who needs to look beyond a couple of blocks when writing a propaganda piece.

  • bb

    You don’t talk about freedom when 2nd hand smoke kills people.

  • David

    Nicotine is more addictive by volume than heroin. Why we pussy foot around to keep a dangerous drug like that legal is beyond me. Much less using percentage of food and alcohol (another deadly drug) as a yardstick for regulations. Silly indeed.

  • Tyler Merchant

    I understand people wanting a smoke-free place to go. But at what cost does this smoking ban come? What right does the government have to dictate that no one can partake of a lawful substance in a private establishment? This seems to be a slippery slope–what property/business owner’s prerogatives will be taken next. For those who don’t like smoke in a bar, you have a choice: don’t go. There are bars whose owners cater to those who don’t smoke. Let the free market, not the government, haggle over this. My $0.02. (I don’t smoke, by the way.) -Arts & Sciences Class of 2007.