Boston prepares to enforce smoking ban
BOSTON (AP) Michael Boris doesn't light up when he goes out for a drink, but he likes the smoky ambiance in bars nonetheless. Erin Barry, on the other hand, looks forward to going home each night after waitressing at a downtown bar without smelling like a
About 700 bars and nightclubs in Boston are gearing up to throw out the ashtrays and matchbooks as a smoking ban, which snuffs out smoking at all indoor workplaces citywide, goes into effect Monday.
While public health officials and some nonsmokers and smokers say they'll appreciate the fresher air, business owners and other patrons are concerned about the loss of business, ambiance and infringement on their rights.
Bruce Potter, membership director of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, says business at restaurants and bars, is already down because of the poor economic climate.
''This is the most terrible time for this to be going into effect,'' Potter said.
Restaurants often have 3 to 5 percent profit margins to begin with, Potter said, and they would suffer greatly from even the smallest sale decrease. Many owners are also bristling at being told how to run their business, he said.
Meanwhile the Boston Public Health Commission is handing out posters, coasters and other notices that blow smoke at common complaints about tobacco use in bars and clubs.
''Tomorrow morning your shirt will still smell April fresh,'' says one coaster; another asks you to think about ''how many bartenders you'll save'' by not smoking.
Starting Monday, eight public health commission inspectors will fan out across the city, making unannounced visits to ensure bars and nightclubs are abiding by the new law, which was crafted to protect the health of workers, as well as follow up on complaints.
''Our intention is not to be the smoking police,'' said John Auerbach, executive director of the health commission. ''We're just trying to make sure every employee at every workplace in this city is not exposed to something as dangerous and as carcinogenic as secondhand smoke.''
Auerbach doesn't expect to see many problems with the enforcement of the ban, which mirrors legislation in California and New York City.
Under a 1998 regulation, Boston required restaurants to partition off smoking areas or place them at least six feet from eating areas. The new regulations will ban smoking everywhere in Boston except the outdoors and private homes, hotel rooms and some cigar bars.
Many managers are concerned that driving the smokers outside will result in groups huddling outside bars and nightclubs causing safety hazards, especially in popular nightspots like Lansdowne Street and the Faneuil Hall area in Boston.
''I think it's going to end up being a real problem. You're not allowed to take liquor outside and what happens outside (the establishment), we can't control,'' Potter said.
Police are prepared to deal with safety issues that may arise, Auerbach said.
But Ben Davis, 67, who lit up one of his last cigarettes inside a Boston bar Wednesday at Coogan's in the downtown area, said the ban was infringing on his right to consume a legal product.
''This is the last time I'll be sitting down here enjoying my martini and my cigarette,'' said the Boxford resident, describing a favorite lunchtime activity.
''I probably won't be coming back here, and not just because I'm retiring,'' said the stockbroker, whose last day at work is Friday. ''Why can't they have a place where just smokers can go and enjoy their smoke and drink? No, that would be illegal. But this isn't.''
Along with Boston, Watertown, Saugus and Framingham also go smoke-free Monday. Altogether, 77 Massachusetts communities have adopted total public smoking bans, while many more have partial bans.
Meanwhile, some private clubs and fraternal organizations in Yarmouth, which has passed a smoking ban, are arguing that city bans should not apply to them. Later next month, the Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments on the case, which will affect clubs like the Moose, Elks and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The clubs say the town shouldn't be able to dictate what members do inside their private lodges. But town officials contend that since nonmembers who are friends or relatives of members can eat at the lodges, they are considered public areas.
Bartender John Brown, 64, at Mr. Dooley's bar in Boston's Financial District, says he's inhaled more than his share of smoke in his 40 years on the job. He says he looks forward to the smoke-free environment, but worries about losing business.
''(Smokers) will just seek other alternatives. They can just hop on the T and go to Cambridge or Quincy,'' Brown said.
This concern is often repeated by bar managers and employees.
''It's going to hurt until they do it statewide,'' Shane Waldron, bartender at The Avenue in Boston's Allston area.