Small bars blast proposed smoking ban
Neighborhood bar owners today ripped the state House for passing a workplace smoking bill that won’t let their customers light up but will let casino gamblers puff away.
The owners predicted their businesses would suffer or fail if they had to ban smoking, as almost all of their patrons are smokers.
"This is going to kill my business," said Bob Garcia, owner of Marlee Restaurant and Lounge in Denver.
He and one of his bartenders, Toni Burmann, held up a large sign that said Marlee’s has been a neighbor bar and a smoking bar since 1957.
Sam Webb Jr., whose family owns the Village Pub in Thorton, was particularly critical that lawmakers would give casinos a break, but not neighborhood bars.
"By exempting casinos, policy makers are acknowledging that this bill will have a negative impact on the gaming industry," the 23-year-old nonsmoker said.
"So while big business is getting an exemption, independently owned family businesses like ours are left to bear this burden on their own. This policy is unfair."
House Bill 1175 by Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, and Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver, now is in the Senate, where a tough fight is expected. The bill bars smoking in most workplaces and allows only a few exemptions, including the casinos and tobacco stores.
Bar owners applauded Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany and Sen. Ed Jones when the Colorado Springs Republicans vowed to fight the smoking bill as it currently is written.
McElhany told the owners he would support legislation that exempts liquor-license establishments where food sales are less than 25 percent of the gross annual receipts. The same proposal died in the House amid concerns that topless bars and other non mom-and-pop businesses then would also get a break.
McElhany said lawmakers are considering amendments that would use the food-sales provision, but also include seating and square footage limitations. That would likely help target only neighborhood bars, he said.
But bar owners aren’t the only ones upset. State bingo operators are unhappy that casinos were exempted, but their groups were not. The bingo groups are holding a protest at 7 p.m tonight at the Berkeley Community Church in Denver.