To better understand the impact of the impending public smoking ban, it is worthwhile to look at how it affected two other major cities that have passed their own bans in recent years, New York and Los Angeles. In the case of New York, a study conducted by Zagat found in surveying 29,361 people that ninety percent are eating out the same amount or more often after the passing of the law. Moreover, twenty-three percent stated they were eating out more often because of the public smoking ban.
Granted, a public smoking ban isn’t going to keep everyone happy, as Ben Myron, the owner of the Backstage Bar & Grill in Culver City, California found that “business was cut in half instantly” after he began enforcing the law. Over time however, “people who weren’t coming because of the smoke started coming and after a few months a new crowd found the place and business is now much better than it was when it was a smoking bar.”
The problem is that, at least initially, the smoking ban wasn’t necessarily enforced. This became a particular problem as bars, termed “smoke-easies,” emerged as an outlet for smokers (think speakeasies during the Prohibition era). While this kind of rebellion is not the norm, it is well worth mentioning as it could be a potential pitfall in terms of how Chicago approaches the ban. That aside, Myron found that the new bartenders he hired “all said they couldn’t imagine working behind the bar with people blowing smoke in their face” and, for him, “banning smoking was ultimately good for my business.”
But what about the old regulars, do they ever return? “Nope,” Myron says. (Thomas Barbee)