Bars Owners Fight Smoking Ban
These days, the table centerpieces at Otto's Bar and Grill at Eighth and Walnut in Columbia are a little less crowded. After 3 weeks of sparse crowds, owner Joel Thiel said the smoking ban is a problem for his pocketbook.
"Now on a Thursday night, I'm at the bar with only three or four people," he said.
Fifteen bar owners came together at Cody's on Paris Road Thursday to talk about how much business has been off since the smoking ban took effect in January.
"I'm seeing about half the traffic i used to Monday through Thursday," said Thiel.
Bar owners are upset, and that's why a new petition is circulating among Columbia bars. Owners want the city council to put the issue to a city-wide vote
Owners say the issue is more than smoking.
"It's also about my rights," said Thiel. "It's about the bigger picture."
Heather Baer of Boone County Public Health says she understands owners frustrations, but public health takes precedence.
"We anticipated there would be a lot of mixed emotions, and we're just trying to do our best at enforcement and education," she said.
The group of bar owners needs more than 2,000 signatures by the end of March. Even with owners' frustrations, Baer says public health has received only 15 complaints of smoking in Columbia bars since the ban took effect.