Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bar Business Hurting

According to this article in today's Southern, the smoking ban has really hurt bar business in Carbondale. PKs is down 30%, The Cellar is down 20% and Mugsy McGuire's had it's worst January in 10 years. Other bars outside Carbondale are reporting similar figures. It appears that the lack of smoking means that smokers only come in for an hour or so instead of the 3-4 hours they used to spend. In addition, the expected non-smokers aren't coming in to replace the vanished smokers.

It's going to take six months to a year for customer behavior to change and reflect the new smoking situation. The question is, are the bars financially strong enough to hold on until this happens?

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Isn't it a little soon for this carping, especially since the six weeks they're talking about covers the holidays and one of the worst snow storms we've had in nearly a decade?
This reminds me of the neurosurgeons leaving and blaming the "malpractice claims", when I personally heard Dr Mellion complain that he was leaving because there wasn't enough money to be made in Southern Illinois, and I quote, "I've operated on every back there is to do in Southern Illinois". And another doctor saying the same thing, when I work with someone who worked for him, and he was looking to quit the year before.

The point is that I would think that the economic downturn has more to do with reduced bar business than people having to go outside to smoke.
I wonder if the bar owners would be willing to pay an increased public health tax that went specifically to non-smoking patrons and employees of bars in exchange for lifting the no-smoking ban. I'll go out on a thick limb and say...never.

Instead, the costs would just get passed on to the entire society in the form of higher health care premiums for those of us who have insurance and more costly medical care to cover hospital losses for uninsured patrons. Lung cancer ain't a cheap thing to treat, especially for someone who really only has an opportunity to hustle drinks to make a living.
The bar employees I have talked to are pleased as punch about the ban.
They really do not see a big difference in business.
It makes sense that the smoking havens have a downturn in business. Why would anyone go into the Cellar or PK's, except to smoke with their friends? After you make a 20 year traffic pattern of only smokers and people who will put up with that smoke, you are going to have trouble when the world changes. What exactly do these bars offer that isn't better elsewhere?

I have a choice between drinking at Quatro's, Pag's, Tom's Place, or one of those dumps? Not a very hard decision, is it? Maybe the smokers have decided the same thing?

I have always wondered, how many people comment as gadfly?
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