LIVINGSTON COUNTY — Dark clouds lingered over local restaurant owners ten years ago when a ban on smoking in restaurants was established.
The Clean Indoor Air Act was passed July 24, 2003 which banned people from smoking in public establishments, mainly restaurants. The ten year anniversary is rapidly approaching and a lot has changed in ten years.
Many restaurant owners had a very substantial fear that their restaurants were going to go bankrupt because of the Clean Indoor Air Act. There was nothing they could do except wait out the storm.
Although the clouds were dark, the storm never came.
“Don’t get me wrong, we did lose a crowd and I was worried but on the positive side we had better business at dinner time,” said John Hatzi, Owner of the Omega Grill, one of only two restaurants in Geneseo that has kept the same ownership over the last ten years, the other being Club 41.
Ten years ago seems like an eternity for some, so perspective as to what the restaurant environment was like ten years ago was helpful.
“It was a lot less family friendly, but it was the norm,” said Mark Thielges, Owner of Club 41.
“You didn’t think about the smoke, it was everywhere and you didn’t really notice it,” said Hatzi.
For Club 41, the troublesome part arose when the owners had to enforce the new law themselves.
“I felt like a jerk asking my customers, some of them my friends, to go outside and smoke,” said Thielges. “I really didn’t like that the burden of enforcing this law was put on the owners.”
However when asked if the ban on smoking affected their business, the answer was no.
“Non-smokers stayed longer and ordered more, while smokers left sooner and we could turnover the tables faster than we could before,” said Hatzi.
According to Thielges, the food sales at Club 41 have gone up forty percent since the ban was enacted.
“We wanted to protect people in their workplace, that was the main reason behind the ban,” said Diana Cannon, Tobacco Action Partnership Coordinator for the Livingston County Department of Health.
In 2013 it is a common occurrence to see people outside of restaurants and bars enjoying a cigarette after their meal.
“I really don’t mind at all to go outside and smoke, it would be weird to me if we were allowed to smoke inside,” said Megan Czapranski, customer at the Omega Grill.
Ten years later the smoke has cleared and it looks as though local restaurant owners fears were triggered by nothing more than smoke and mirrors.