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Statewide Smoking Ban Gains Foothold

When the statewide smoking cigarettes ban went into effect one year ago, there were considerable concerns among bar and restaurant owners

Some feared that business would drop off dramatically if customers were prohibited from lighting up.

"We were hoping for the best," said Brian Burr, bar manager at the Eagles Club on S. Commercial Street in Neenah. "We hoped it wouldn't hurt our business."

In Neenah-Menasha, the first year of the smoking cigarettes ban yielded mixed results. Many taverns retained customers with specially built outdoor smoking cigarettes venues, but some saw a decline in business because of those who preferred to smoke cigarettes at home.

In terms of restaurants, the impact was lessened by the fact that Neenah has had a smoking cigarettes ban in dining establishments for a number of years, and several other eateries in the Menasha area went smoke-free on their own.

Most of the establishments that removed the ash trays on July 5, 2010, didn't appear to be hit hard by the ban. In fact, there was a general feeling that any decline in business was due more to the economy than to the smoking cigarettes ban.

"We did think it would impact business, but I didn't see the impact we assumed would happen," said Kyle Danielski, kitchen manager at Sidelines Sports Bar & Grill in the Town of Menasha. "Generally, our business has virtually stayed the same since the smoking cigarettes ban went into effect. If anything, the economy and people losing their jobs will affect us more than the smoking cigarettes ban."

Before the ban, Sidelines offered dining areas for smokers and non-smokers. Most customers have accepted that the ban isn't going away, according to Danielski. He added that some previous customers who stopped going to Sidelines because of the smoking cigarettes returned after it was outlawed.

At the Eagles Club on S. Commercial Street in Neenah, the restaurant portion of the business has remained solid, but the bar has taken a hit over the past year.

Burr said tavern-related business has dropped by 30 percent. He said the less-than-stellar economy is a factor, but attributes the decline to the smoking cigarettes ban as well.

"It's tough to tell right now because of the economy," he said. "But the smoking cigarettes ban has played a part."

The Eagles Club spent $14,000 on its outdoor patio that caters to smokers. The patio was originally encased in plastic, but the city intervened and the club decided to install a plexi-glass structure.

"It's going to take awhile before we get that money back," Burr said. "We're hoping it will pay dividends."

Burr said the competition for bar patrons has heated up since last year. "What's happening now is bars are under-pricing each other on drinks," he said.

He said some of the former bar customers are now smoking cigarettes in their own residences.

"They feel their rights are being violated," he said. "Nobody can tell them where to smoke cigarettes at home."

Burr said the smoking cigarettes ban wasn't thrust upon bar and restaurant owners, saying it was apparent the state was going in that direction.

"Now, it's an even and level playing field for everybody," he said.

Connie Olson, executive director of the Fox Cities-based Community Action for Healthy Living, said the smoking cigarettes ban has been an unqualified success.

"People are much healthier now that they're not exposed to smoke cigarettes in the workplace," Olson said. "And from what I have experienced, business has stayed the same for most places or gotten better.

"There are a couple of places where bar owners say it is worse. Many times, those are the same places that weren't complaint with the law in the beginning."

Olson believes the public has adjusted to the smoking cigarettes ban and have been "very respectful of the law."

Neenah-Menasha businesses have been compliant with the ban. There has not been a single warning or citation issued for failure to comply, according to law enforcement officials in Neenah, Menasha and the Town of Menasha.

"We met with license-holders (before the ban took effect) to clarify the law," said Aaron Zemlock, crime prevention officer with the Menasha Police Department. "I think that helped stem potential problems."

State Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, said the public has largely accepted the workplace smoking cigarettes ban.

"For the most part, people are over it," he said.

In terms of the tavern industry, some have felt the smoking cigarettes ban more than others, Kaufert said.

"I know some bars that really got hurt by it. They have a higher percentage of clientele who smoke," he said. "It has impacted different places differently. Here in the Fox Valley, it has kind of blown over. The industry has adapted."

Kaufert, owner of Under the Dome, a bar that serves food in Neenah, said customers also have adapted to the ban.

"I see a lot of nice outdoor decks and areas where people can go outside and smoke," he said. "I've received many comments from customers saying it's so much nicer to not to have to deal with the (indoor) smoke." is the leading tobacco marketplace for cheap cigarettes products at the lowest price from all over the Internet.

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