BOISE -- It's been nearly a month since Boise's new smoking ban went into effect. Some bar owners are happy with it or don't have a strong opinion, but others say because of the ban, they're in danger of closing.
This new law, it's just killing us, Terry Sherman, Terry's State Street Saloon owner, said.
Bar owners: Impact was bigger than anticipated
On January 2nd, a new Boise city ordinance went into effect. It bans smoking in places like bars, bus stops, and the Boise Greenbelt. Some of the bartenders and bar owners that used to allow smoking and had a considerable amount of customers who smoke say the ban is costing them money.
We thought it would impact us a little bit, but we had no idea, Cathy Mascroft, Buddies bartender, said. All of these bar owners are getting ready to shut their doors in an already horrible economy.
[The ban is] way worse than what I thought it would be, Gary Sullivan, Quinn's Restaurant and Lounge owner, said. A lot of people come in in the morning, have two or three cigarettes, a couple of cups of coffee, and stay and eat breakfast. Or they did. They don't do that anymore.
Owners, bartenders claim 20-70% loss in revenue
Just a few weeks into Boise's smoking ban, these bartenders and owners say they're hurting financially, down in revenue from this time last year. Many of them say the majority of their customers are smokers.
We've been down about 25%, 20-25% in sales, Janice Neal, The Overland Bar owner, said.
Our business from last month is about 20% down alone, Mascroft said.
We had an immediate drop in the first 18 days of January of 15%, Sherman said.
Our night shifts seem to be struggling the most. We had certain nights that we're down 71%, Layne Rosenkrance, Cricket's bartender, said. We're put in a position where we're against our patrons that have been paying us, paying our bills.
It doesn't affect even the bar owners, as much as the bartenders as well, Mascroft said. I didn't make enough to pay my daycare last week, so it's a trickle down effect, definitely.
Allowing smoking was a business choice
Some Boise bars chose to go non-smoking prior to the ban, and some of them say they've seen increased revenue. But for the bar owners against the ban, they say it was a business choice for them to allow smoking because their customers want to smoke inside.
If my bar, if my business, did better business and my employees did better because of non smoking, we'd have been non-smoking a long time ago, Sherman said.
There were a lot of bars that went non-smoking, but in my business, I would say 90% of my customers smoke, and so [the ban] had a great impact, Neal said.
Bar owners: A statewide ban would hurt less
They say one of the biggest problems for them is that smoking is allowed in surrounding towns, like Garden City.
I don't quite understand why it didn't become a statewide ban, instead of just Boise city isolating our city. Because our people are going to Garden City, to Meridian, and different places because they can smoke there, Neal said. [A statewide ban] would have been fair for everybody. So everybody would be on the same page and everybody would have the same rules to follow.
City of Boise responds to concerns
KTVB brought these bar owners' financial concerns to the city for comment. Spokesperson Adam Park issued this statement on behalf of the city.
With the ordinance in effect for less than a month, it is too early to accurately gauge what impact the ban may have on local businesses over the long term.
Other local bars that banned smoking prior to the smoke-free ordinance, such as the Crescent No Lawyers Bar & Grill and China Blue, have reported that their business has improved since making the switch.
There have been reports from other cities of a brief decline in business during the months immediately following a new smoking ban - particularly among patrons most opposed to the restriction. However, in each case those declines soon disappeared and were followed by normal or improved sales as businesses acquired new non-smoking customers and regained smoking customers who ultimately chose to return to their favorite bars.
The City Council is monitoring the impact of the new ordinance to ensure there are no unintended consequences and will consider potential adjustments to the ordinance if they are merited. Considering the strong level of support among the council and the public, a full repeal of the ordinance is unlikely.