The Smoking Ban – The Californication of New York City.
I received this e-mail from a reader in San Jose, California who describes how things went when that state banned smoking in restaurants and saloons a decade or so ago.
We went through that [the smoking ban] out here in California 10 or 15 years ago. And yes, business at restaurants dropped off 20-50% initially. Smokers would come into a restaurant and threaten to beat the manager up. Of course some people came in, ate their meals, lit up, and when admonished, used it as an excuse to leave without paying.
And we went through a period of time when people went through all kinds of expense to set up private smoking rooms, etc. to bypass the laws.
To be honest, I had little sympathy. I smoke a pipe, and I had been non-legislatively banned from smoking it in public smoking areas at least 5-10 years before that.
Business in most restaurants and bars returned to normal within 3 to 9 months. A restaurant or bar which did not have a place outside where their customers could smoke in a somewhat sheltered space remained in trouble. Many of them defied the law for years. Many went out of business, or moved.
But some of them used the law to force their landlords and or their cities to allow them to have a couple of cafe tables and umbrellas on the sidewalk in front. Two small tables, four small chairs and two umbrellas, plus an unwritten law that says 1) smokers have priority, and 2) nobody is allowed to monopolize them. If the sidewalk is wide enough, they can even put a railing up and the smokers can bring their drinks out with them.
After these years have gone by, the most lasting result, other than the ban itself, is that anyone looking to open a restaurant or bar will insist on sheltered patio space, even if it is just an awning, some gas heaters, and space.
This is a very big plus to me. Pre smoking ban, the cost of a patio space compared to enclosed space was such that more and more places didn’t bother to serve on patios anymore (San Jose, CA BTW). Patio dining was one of the pluses of California living, and it was going away, because it cost 5-15% more (extra bussers, extra cleanup (to prevent insect swarms around spills), outdoor heaters, canopies, umbrellas, just general extra.
Today, patio dining is back. Hooray! Because of the smoking ban.
Of course, given there is at least one city trying to ban even outdoor smoking, it may go away again.
Patio dining in California can be a twelve-month affair, but it won’t be a big hit in New York City in January, methinks.
Some of the local saloons on the boundaries of New York City are being particularly hard hit by the no-smoking law. They are losing many of their customers to the bars across the street. This is because the street marks the boundary between New York City and Yonkers, a city without a smoking ban.
This all seems nuts to me, and it could not have come at a worse time for New York City, which has had to cut services to the bone and lay off thousands of municipal workers due to crippling deficits. However, I really should not be surprised by New York’s beautiful people backing a dumb idea. After all, they voted overwhelmingly for Hillary.
Christopher Hitchens, a damned fine Brit who enjoys a cocktail and a smoke, has written an interesting article on the New York City smoking ban. via My So-Called Blog.
In Northern Jersey, smoking is generally not allowed in a great many, if not most, of the better restaurants. However, this is not mandated by law, but rather is a choice made by individual restaurant owners, which presumably is dictated by the economics of it all. That’s the way it should be. Restaurant patrons in Jersey have become accustomed to either not smoking or stepping outside for a smoke — even in January. I think it is fair to say that most smokers do not have a huge problem with no-smoking restaurants. No-smoking bars are another story. I do not know of any no-smoking bars in New Jersey. Again, this has nothing to do with law, but everything to do with the free-market. That’s the way it should be.
Got a light?