Smoking ban has ups, downs

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For the past three months, the air has been noticeably clearer in bars and restaurants in Craig. The statewide smoking ban, which took effect July 1, has had different effects on the local watering holes that have now been smoke free for more than 90 days.

At Mathers' Bar, owner Tom Mathers has noticed a definite downturn in business.

"We used to get people that would sit here all day long and smoke cigarettes," Mathers said. "Now they take cigarette breaks outside between sitting in here. After a couple of those breaks, they leave."

He said the new law was also tougher than expected on the bartenders who smoke. They must also step outside to smoke a cigarette, sometimes leaving the bar short-staffed.

Mathers said that although the business has lost some customers who smoke, it also has picked up some new visitors because of the nonsmoking law.

The business also opened a restaurant, The Boardroom, at the same time that the law went into effect, making it hard to tell whether people frequenting the establishment were coming because it went nonsmoking, or to dine at the new restaurant.

Delbert and Diana Knez, owners of The O.P. Bar & Grill, are experiencing the opposite effect of the smoking ban.

Delbert Knez said the restaurant may have actually benefited from the law, because the business offers smoking outside on the deck, and no smoking inside the building.

"It brought more nonsmokers into the business," Delbert Knez said. "The smokers can still sit outside, at least until winter comes around."

Knez said that the business is following the law, and his staff is learning to adjust to the nonsmoking rules.

He estimates that business is up 10 percent to 15 percent, "which is very good."

On Thursday, Knez installed TV sets on the deck to accommodate the large number of smokers who have been watching sports outside where smoking is allowed.

The crowd at Mathers' has been stepping out in front of the business to smoke, and Tom Mathers said that has led to some comments he has never heard before, including people stepping inside for some fresh air.

"It's a little early to tell about its effect on business," Mathers said about the law. "You hear stories about bars closing all around the country. And then you hear stories about it being the best thing that ever happened."

At the O.P., where they only have ashtrays on the deck in the back, Knez has noticed another effect of the ban.

"I just got finished sweeping up 200 cigarette butts in front of the building," he said.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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