Smokers lose their right to light up in clubs
In two years, the fact that the Park City private club, The Sidecar is smoke-free, won’t be an anomaly, but perhaps the club’s heated outdoor deck will.
In a bill passed by the Utah State Legislature, smokers will soon need to step outside to light up, and for many club and bar owners, that will mean directing customers to a sidewalk.
"I think smokers actually prefer smoking on our balcony," Sidecar owner Connor Watts says. "But I think places like the No Name Saloon, which are on street level and don’t have an outdoor area, are going to have trouble."
Senate Bill 19, which amends the Indoor Clean Air Act to include private clubs, passed at the end of the legislative session this week.
The smoke-free deadline for establishments licensed as A, B, or C private clubs — country clubs, fraternal organizations and fine dining restaurants — is by January, 2007.
The deadline for class D private clubs, taverns and bars, is two years later, on January 1, 2009.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Michael Waddoups, a Republican from Taylorsville, has pursued the smoking issue throughout two legislative sessions. SB19 is the reincarnation of a similar bill he sponsored at last year’s session that never received a final vote.
Waddoups did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
The bill amending Utah’s Clean Air Act continued its tenuous march this year, and passed with luke-warm support from legislators, enduring two substitutes in the House. The Senate passed the bill by a five-vote margin; the bill passed the House by six votes.
Summit County legislators seldom could agree on which way to vote. In the final vote, Republican Sen. Allen Christensen, who represents portions of Eastern Summit County, sided with Waddoups, while Rep. Ross Romero, a Salt Lake Democrat who represents portions of Snyderville Basin, and Republican Rep. David Ure, from Kamas, voted against the bill.
Sen. Beverly Evans, from Altamont who represents Summit County, like Christensen, voted in favor of the bill in the final committee meeting vote.
Waddoups hailed his bill as a public health issue and a worker’s rights issue; others felt the freedom to smoke was a property rights issue a key argument for lobbyists and members of the Utah Hospitality Association.
In a phone interview with The Park Record, the association’s president, Bob Brown, said he remained at the Capitol until 10 p.m. on the final day of the session and left for Ohio the following morning.
"Thank god I’m away from a state that takes away my rights," he said. "[Legislators] don’t consider smoking a private property rights issue, which is ridiculous. I shell out $100,000 for my house and no one would argue that I own that house, but I shell out $100,000 for my business, and all of the sudden everyone argues, ‘oh, that’ s not really his.’ That’s a crock."
Brown, who owns the Salt Lake private club, Cheers To You, argues many businesses will lose money when the ban takes effect since patrons are more likely to leave once they step outside.
He will be monitoring class B private clubs like the Elks and American Legion fraternal organizations.
"The state’s going to watch the fraternal organizations go down in flames as far as the money that those clubs bring in goes, and I will bring that up at the next legislative session," he said.
Brown is thankful that the state will be waiting a few years before private clubs and taverns need to be smoke-free.
"If you’re the first state to go smoke free, it can cripple business. If you’re the 50th state, you probably won’t be crippled," he reasoned. "So, the further we can push it out, the better it is for us, because people will just socialistically start to accept it."
Jesse Shetler owns two Park City businesses with private club licenses: the No Name Saloon, which permits patrons to smoke, and Butcher’s Chophouse, which prohibits smoking.
"As far as I’m concerned, there are two groups in this town, one that smokes, and one that doesn’t, and I had already tapped into the clientele that either smokes or doesn’t mind being in a bar with smoking, and I thought I’d tap into another market that would like to be in a fun bar that didn’t have smoke as well," he said.
Shetler says though Butcher’s is a newer business, both clubs ring in similar numbers. He has joined the Utah Hospitality Association in its fight for property rights, however, and disagrees with the new law.
"I don’t know how the [State Legislature] got the bill passed in the first place. If you’re a private club, you should be able to have a legal product in your private club," he explained. "A club is owned by its members. If you make us a private club, then you should allow members to choose whether their club is smoking or non-smoking."
In a few years, Shetler worries that smokers will become a problem as far as the city is concerned.
"The other thing that’s bothersome to me, from the city’s perspective is the people walking up and down Main Street. Now that people are not going to be allowed to smoke in the No Name Saloon, they’re going to be standing outside on a sidewalk. Obviously in the wintertime, there will be less, but in the summer, there will be more. Ten or 15 people will be outside smoking, whereas before, there weren’t any," he said.
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