Smoking supporters say it’s about freedom

“We want them to vote no on both measure one and two, but to educate them in letting them know they will be losing their china smokersfreedoms to choose,”said Keith Holzer, spokesman for the Employees for Individual Freedom. They referred the Bismarck City Commission vote to ban smoking in all bars.

In recent weeks, the group has began running its own ad campaign to counter messages for the smoking ban. Their “vote no” message is even printed on napkins. Mike Peluso, co-owner of the Stadium and Lodge, said they are only using private money for the ads; drop boxes ask patrons to help.

Holzer argues there are 62 other non-smoking liquor establishments and only 15 that allow smoking. “There are 70 percent of bars already non-smoking,” Holzer said.

According to Holzer, Fargo lost 30 percent of its sales when the smoking ban took effect and he said charitable gaming is down. That might mean layoffs.

A North Dakota Hospitality Association survey showed there were 50 openings in non-smoking bars here, Holzer said, so bar workers have a choice. “These employees were saying ‘we can choose for ourselves where we want to work.’ … They don’t need to be protected,” Holzer said.

It’s not the smoking huts the bar workers in the referendum oppose in the second ballot item, but that it also enforces the smoking ban ordinance for bars. “If the measure 2 goes through, the smoking ban is on,” Holzer said. Nobody has done an air quality study locally for smoking bars, he said.

Peluso said if the ban goes through, it will be costly for him either to add smoking huts or renovate. He won’t need to offer separate smoking and smoke-free bars. “We invested a lot of money into adding that addition of a smoke-free atmosphere.”

Peluso said the smoking ban would “dictate how we’re supposed to spend our money. I don’t agree with that. … At this place and you got a choice -right or left.”

Peluso said his workers ask to work in the smoking bar because they feel they earn higher tips; workers who smoke feel better-suited to work there. Peluso fears a smoking ban will mean a shorter stay for customers. “Now, they might choose to just go home,” he said.

By LeAnn Eckroth: 250-8264, leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com

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