Customers at Michael Moriarty’s two Lansing bars have responded differently to the state’s Sovereign smoking ban. He said the ban has helped lunch business at Moriarty’s Pub on Michigan Avenue by attracting customers who wouldn’t normally have gone into a smoky bar for lunch.
But it’s hurt the daytime business next door at Stobers Cocktail Lounge, where an older, regular clientele has cut back due to the ban, he said.
“A lot of people are quick to blame the nonsmoking for their lack of business, there’s a lot of different factors here,” he said, adding that the economy and gas prices likely impact business as well. “(The ban) is a factor, but how big a factor is a question.”
State officials are working on examining sales tax data for the full year since the ban went into effect on May 1, 2010.
That will provide a more comprehensive picture than some of the earlier studies that have come out, said Farid Shamo, public health consultant for the Michigan Department of Community Health’s tobacco prevention program.
Sales tax collections from taverns that serve liquor were down about 1.6 percent in June through September 2010 compared with a year earlier, while family restaurants and cafeterias were up 4.2 percent, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.
Local health departments randomly selected nearly 560 restaurants and bars in 54 counties to survey them on their perceptions of the smoking ban impacts.
About 60 percent of respondents said they experienced either positive or no change in their financial situation since the ban went into effect, Shamo said.
But for those who have suffered a drop in sales, it’s been difficult, said Lance Binoniemi, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association.
“We have heard from a lot of members that it has had a negative impact on them, most noticeably on those who are small, independent tavern owners,” he said.
The association surveyed more than 430 of its members, and found that alcohol, food and lottery sales for establishments with annual gross sales of $250,000 or less were down 27.4 percent in the first three months after the ban compared with the same period in 2009.
On the other hand, establishments with annual gross sales of $1 million or more reported overall sales down about 4.6 percent, according to the survey.
Clay Rapier estimates business has been down about 25 percent at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post on St. Joseph Street in Lansing.
The VFW post put up a smoking shelter, but he said customers end up limiting their visits due to the inconvenience.
“We’ve lost a lot of our normal clientele,” said Rapier, senior vice commander and bar manager for the post.
State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, recently introduced legislation to allow a separate room or open air patio for smokers where wait staff would not have to serve the customers.
The legislation is aimed at helping to ease the ban’s “massively negative impact on small businesses,” he said in a statement.