Proposed ban on workplace smoking will affect GLBT bars

A proposed ban on workplace smoking by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has some local GLBT bar owners wondering how the ban would affect their business and employees.

Both David Taylor, co-owner of Tribe Video Bar and Red Restaurant, and Tony Daniel, co-owner and operations manager of Lucky’s Garage, say the proposed ban on workplace smoking would draw mixed reaction from their patrons and employees.

“Since we opened in 2002 at least half of Tribe has been smoke-free and currently Red Restaurant and our lounge are completely smoke free,” Taylor said. “We have more than $20,000 worth of high-tech, smoke filtering devices at Tribe, so we have always had a reputation as one of the least smoky bars in all of Nashville.”

Daniel said Lucky’s Garage had worked hard to contain the smoke, based on requests from patrons and employees.

“A ban on smoking would be welcome by some customers but obviously not welcome by our smoking customers,” Daniel said. “We currently try to meet the needs of both types of customers by allowing smoking but provide state-of-the-art smoke eaters to clear the air for our non-smokers. Since the installation of our smoke eaters in the front bar, it’s virtually smoke free even with a large smoking crowd.”

The proposed ban has been endorsed by The Tennessee Restaurant Association and The Campaign for a Healthy and Responsible Tennessee.

David Lazarus, a regular patron at Tribe, said he supported the proposed ban.

“Whether you smoke or not, it is unpleasant not being able to catch your breath in a smoky bar,” Lazarus said. “Tribe has always done a good job of segregating smoking areas from non; they also seem to have a pretty good filtering system.”

Tribe owner Taylor said he wasn’t sure how the proposed ban would affect his business or how many of his current customers were smokers – but said he knew his employees would appreciate a smoke-free environment.

“I have no idea how the law will affect our business if it passes. Many of our customers smoke and many do not; it’s hard to know the exact percentage,” Taylor said. “I know there are customers - both current and potential - who would love for Tribe to be completely smoke free, and I’m sure that our bartenders and other employees would appreciate a smoke-free environment.”

Lucky’s owner Daniel said if the proposed ban was enacted, he would have to provide an outdoor area for smokers. Beyond that, he too wasn’t sure how it would affect his business, but said he had fewer smokers than non-smokers as customers.

“It depends on the night and time of day, but on average there are fewer smokers than non smokers,” he said. “Our employees are very much like our customers. Some of our employees are smokers and some are not.”

Taylor said if the ban passed, he hoped it would have a positive effect on the restaurant and bar industry.

“My hope is that we would benefit from more people coming out than do now,” he said. “Last year we built a wonderful outdoor patio that will provide plenty of space to accommodate our smokers should this law pass. And we will continue to offer the finest social experience for our customers, and we certainly hope they will respond to that regardless of the state’s smoking laws.”

There are those though, who think the ban will have a tough time passing legislative hurdles.

The tobacco lobby has long held a powerful presence on Capital Hill.

“I think it will have some difficulty passing at this time, but will eventually be enacted,” said reformed smoker Lazarus. “I’m not surprised by this proposal. I think this has been in the works for a long time.”

Bredesen has also proposed a dramatic increase in the state’s cigarette tax, tripling it from 20 cents per pack to 60 cents per pack. Those extra funds would go towards a $343 million education package.

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