Restaurants doing well with smoking ban
REGIONAL - Has the state smoking ban in restaurants, adopted last year, hurt business?
Not according to the findings of a Pictorial Gazette survey of a cross-section of valley-shore restaurants contacted during the past week. In fact, the verdict was almost unanimous. Only one of 15 owner/manager respondents said the ban had resulted in any significant lasting damage to business.
Bob Hansen, who owns two restaurants in Old Saybrook, the long-established Johnny Ad's and the newer Penny Lane Pub, said he has no problem with the ban. He acknowledges that the ban may have driven a few hard-core smokers away but feels that loss has been more than made up by the smoke-free atmosphere inside his restaurants, which has attracted more family diners. In the warm weather months, however, he does have some tables outdoors at both restaurants, where the law permits smoking as long as there is no awning to restrict the free flow of air.
At the Dock & Dine at Saybrook Point the manager, Stacy Conn, notes that the main dining room had been smoke-free long before the ban went into effect, but smoking had previously been allowed in the lounge. When the lounge also went smoke-free, it actually helped business, she believes, because a lot of diners who earlier had shied away from the lounge because of the smoke, now welcome tables there, most of which have a commanding view of the Connecticut River as it flows by toward Long Island Sound.
Spokespersons at the Griswold Inn in Essex, the Bee and Thistle Inn in Old Lyme and the Cuckoo's Nest in Westbrook said they enjoyed having their establishments smoke-free and that the state ban did not adversely affect them.
Gary Brink, of the family that owns Pat's Kountry Kitchen in Old Saybrook, and Matt Lariviere, of the family that owns the Westbrook Lobster Restaurant and Market, both pointed out that their restaurants had "no smoking" policies long before the ban went into effect and they continue to be very happy with the way business is going.
Respondents at Lupo's, the Pattaconk 1850 Bar & Grille and the Sage-American Bar & Grill, all in Chester, commented that, while the ban might have briefly hurt business when it first went into effect, business picked up again shortly thereafter and is continuing at a brisk pace at the present time.
Spokespersons for the Copper Beech Inn in Ivoryton, the Angus Steak House in Old Saybrook and CafÃ© Routier in Westbrook likewise indicated they were happy with the ban and continue to thrive although, like all restaurants near the shore, they are busier in the summer than in the type of long, snowy winter currently being experienced.
The lone dissenter in the survey was Michael DiBella, co-owner of Luigi's Restaurant in Old Saybrook, who told this newspaper that his business dropped off "about 15 percent" when the smoking ban went into effect and it has not bounced back the way he had hoped it would.
He cited one couple that used to dine at the
restaurant four or five times a week, but they're both smokers and when the ban came and they could no longer smoke at Luigi's, they decided to have most of their meals at home, where they could still smoke as much as they wanted to.
"Oh, they still come in," DiBella added, "but now it's only occasionally."
The area's fast-food establishments, like McDonald's, Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts, went non-smoking long before the ban was enacted and all say their business has suffered no ill effects from the ban.
Oliver's Taverne in Essex, the Old Lyme Inn, the Terra Mar Grill at the Saybrook Point Inn and the Brother of Empire Restaurant in Old Saybrook were also contacted, but no one who could speak for them was available.