Statewide Smoking Ban In Effect
When the no-smoking ordinance went into effect in the City of Eau Claire a while back, I was one of the many who were against the ban. I still don't like the idea that government told small business owners what they can or can't do - regardless of the health benefits from a no-smoking environment. I am not a smoker, but I still chose to congregate with my friends at a smokey tavern for 10 years because that is where I elected to spend my free time.
Since the no-smoking ordinance in the City of Eau Claire was instituted, a majority of taverns have suffered the consequences. While small business owners in neighboring townships and municipalities took advantage of the situation, locally-owned establishments within the Eau Claire city limits have recorded some of their worst annual revenue reports in years.
Having said that, many of the proponents of the statewide smoking ban are quick to point out that everything will be a level playing field now that Madison and Eau Claire are not the only large cities that ban smoking in public places. I'm sure many tavern owners in Eau Claire are hopeful that some of their faithful patrons will come back to their establishments so long as the business offers an outdoor smoking area that is suitable for their customers' taste. But there is no guarantee. Anyone in the retail industry knows there is no scientific evidence to explain how patrons rationalize where they go and spend their money once they change their daily routine.
As I travelled throughout the State of Wisconsin this past few weeks, I observed how regular customers reacted to the newly-instituted smoking ban in places that were obviously smoker-friendly indoors before the statewide law went into effect. In fact, out of the 15 restaurants and bars that I visited while on the road over a two-week period, I never once heard anyone complain about the new rule. (I'm guessing that most everyone outside of Eau Claire and Madison were mentally prepared to alter their public smoking routine since they knew for months that the new law would go into effect right after the July 4th holiday weekend).
Now that the law is in effect, there is no going back. That is fine, but I am hopeful that tavern owners in the City of Eau Claire can still afford to go the extra mile to do what they can to reconnect with their former customer base who smoke tobacco so they can try to recoup some of their lost revenue stream before it's too late. For what it's worth, I will continue to do my part.