AP) St. Paul Despite fears that a patchwork of smoking restrictions would
devastate the metro area's bar and restaurant industry, a newspaper analysis
shows overall industry sales in the area increased in the second quarter of
In cities and counties with the smoking bans, the St. Paul Pioneer Press
analysis of taxable sales reported to the state Revenue Department found no
significant decline in food and liquor sales.
Destinations including downtown Minneapolis, Uptown, Dinkytown and parts of St.
Paul did better after the bans went into effect than they did the year before.
And despite claims of widespread bar and restaurant closures in Minneapolis,
there now are more liquor establishments there than there were before the ban
went into effect March 31. With more than 670 establishments selling liquor in
Minneapolis, 11 closed and 14 have opened, according to the city's division of
licenses and consumer services.
It appears the industry is not losing its customers.
"It's what we hoped would happen," said St. Paul Council Member Dave Thune, who
is pushing to toughen St. Paul's restrictions and said he will lobby for a
"It's way more expensive to have people in the hospital with emphysema and off
of work and suffering from lung cancer," he said.
Ahmed Abdelaal, an adjunct marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas,
said the numbers mirror what's happened in other cities with smoking bans. "I'm
not surprised," Abdelaal said. "If we take New York as a model, it did not
But some places were affected. Several Hennepin County suburbs saw their bar
and restaurant sales slow or decline in 2005, especially the Maple Grove area.
Sales in other Hennepin County areas increased.
Tom Day, vice president for government affairs for Hospitality Minnesota, said
the smoking ban, coupled with an increase in the minimum wage, has affected the
industry beyond the normal ebb and flow of business.
"The restaurant industry is a volatile industry," Day acknowledged. "The
problem is, there are some prominent, successful businesses that we see
Some people claim the Hennepin County ban has forced some restaurant and bar
workers out of jobs. But in the six months after the ban took effect,
hospitality industry employees filed fewer unemployment claims than in the same
period last year, according to the state Department of Employment and Economic
Development. And in Washington and Anoka counties, where there are no smoking
restrictions, the number of jobless claims increased over a year ago.
Jim Farrell, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association,
said bars and nightclubs could be hurting, even if the restaurant industry
Mike Jennings, owner of Rosen's City Tavern near the Target Center, fears that
once patrons walk outside to smoke, they may not come back.
"Now they walk outside, and their barstool and their car door are equal
distances away. And it could go either way," Jennings said.
The Minneapolis Hospitality Association said that compared with last year,
revenue from charitable gambling such as pull tabs declined nearly $3.5 million
in Minneapolis in the five months after the ban. President Carol Lynn Miller
said that indicates people aren't going to bars anymore.
Dan O'Gara, owner of the St. Paul bar and music venue O'Gara's Bar and Grill,
said he's benefited from the Hennepin County ban because he allows smoking. But
he worries he will lose customers if St. Paul goes smoke-free. He said
neighborhood bars would be devastated.
"The blue-collar, working man's bar, which is a big thing in the Twin Cities,
is probably going to be a thing of the past if this continues," O'Gara said.
A St. Paul ban, which has the support of a majority on the City Council and
mayor-elect Chris Coleman, would likely take effect March 31, 2006. If that
happens, Thune said he wants to help neighborhood bars.
"The smaller, older bars fare the worst, I would suspect," Thune said. "The
little neighborhood bar, we want to make sure that they stay healthy. We want
to talk about how we can put some kind of package together to help them."
Todd Heintz Jordan
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