Meal tax revenues increased after smoking ban went into effect
BOSTON - Business has increased in Massachusetts restaurants since a statewide workplace smoking ban went into effect last July, according to a leading indicator.
Some restaurateurs had predicted that the law, which included a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars, would drive down business since customers could no longer light up with meals.
But revenues from the state's 5 percent meal tax went up, not down, after the law took effect last July 5, The Patriot Ledger of Quincy reported.
State Department of Revenue figures indicate that meal tax receipts were up in each of the last six months of 2004 compared to the same period in 2003, including a 10.6 percent increase in August, the first full month after the law took effect, over the previous August.
The improving economy could also be a factor in more people eating out.
Some business owners said they had to spend money to get customers back after smokers were driven from restaurants and bars.
Greg McDonald, co-owner of the several Quincy restaurants, said sales in one of his restaurant lounges and a pub dropped after the ban went into effect, but went back up after the owners bought high-definition TVs to attract new customers.
``It cost us a substantial amount of money to get the business back to where it was before,'' McDonald said.
Gail Anastas, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, which represents about 5,000 food and beverage establishments, said the organization received no complaints from members about a business drop-off after the ban took effect.
She said many restaurant owners like the uniformity of the statewide smoking ban.
``It kind of leveled the playing field for our members,'' she said. ``Now, nobody has smoking the next town over.''