Local Business Owners, Patrons React to Smoke-Free Proposal
Some local restaurant and bar owners say individual owners should decide whether or not they allow smoking in their establishments. City Council will hold a public hearing on the smoke free initiative Wednesday evening.
An O'Fallon citizens' group is pushing for a city-wide ban on smoking in public establishments, but some local business owners say it should be up to them to make the call.
Smoke-Free O'Fallon gathered over 1,900 signatures to place an initiative on the April 2011 ballot that would prohibit smoking in most public places, including restaurants and bars, similar to the law recently passed by neighboring Lake Saint Louis.
The St. Charles County Election Authority approved the group's petition earlier this month and tonight the O'Fallon City Council is holding a public hearing on the proposal at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Kevin Taylor, owner of KT's Sports Bar and Grill for nine years, said he does not support a city-wide ban and he is encouraging other local restaurant and bar owners to attend the hearing and speak up tonight.
He said most of his patrons are smokers and a city-wide ban would push his customers away.
"It's probably going to close us down," he said. "When you buy a business and spend your livelihood—you know what your standards are, and after you've been here for nine years—to change those rules is unfair."
Taylor said a smoking ban in O'Fallon would drive customers to bars and restaurants in neighboring cities without restrictions.
"They should make it a statewide ban, because it's not fair to have people drive down two more exits on the highway to where they can drink and smoke," he said.
"We have a lot of people who do like to come in, have a beer and a smoke," he said. "They can't smoke at work, so they come in and relax."
Mitchell said he also thinks the decision whether or not to allow smoking in a restaurant should be the owner's call.
"Just because people do have the option to not go where there are smokers," he said.
Customers who frequent O'Fallon restaurants and bars had mixed opinions on the possibility of a smoking ban.
"I really don't smoke inside of restaurants," he said. "I'm mindful of the non-smokers, if they don't want to put up with it, I won't put them through it."
Jim Dunman, another regular at McGurks, said he doesn't smoke but thinks those who do should have the option.
"I think it should be up to each individual restaurant, because I don't believe the government should rule that kind of stuff," he said. "I'd prefer not to have a person across from me smoking, but I'd rather that they have the choice to do so."
Janice Hurst, a customer at Andoro's Pizzaria and Pub on Main Street in O'Fallon, said she thinks the ban recently implemented in Lake St. Louis is driving smokers to other cities' establishments.
"It's why I'm here," she said. "All the people who used to go to my day bar (in Lake St. Louis) don't go anymore—it's dead. All my friends are going to other places that aren't smoke-free."
The city council will have the option to decide whether or not to take action on the smoke-free O'Fallon proposal following the public hearing tonight. If they do not pass the initiative, it will be up to voters in April.