Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


No decision reached on smoking ban

City Council members failed to reach a decision at last night’s meeting on whether to pass a smoking ordinance that would affect a significant number of Madison’s bars and restaurants.

The ordinance was intended to protect restaurant workers and patrons from secondhand smoke.

As of 1995, Madison bars or restaurants with less than one-third of their revenue coming from alcohol must remain nonsmoking, unless a ventilation system or separate smoking room has been installed.

The new ordinance, if passed, will make all establishments with less than half of their revenue coming from alcohol nonsmoking, without exception.

“A lot of students work in bars and restaurants, and they probably don’t have a choice because of limited transportation, irregular schedules, and they need fast cash,” said Amy Miller, a University Health Services nurse practitioner. “Because of secondhand smoke, they suffer short- and long-term effects. They are more likely to miss school from being sick. Bar workers are 50 percent more likely to get lung cancer, even if they do not smoke.”

Opponents of the law questioned whether the ordinance’s sponsors were thinking of employees’ best interests.

“Where are the restaurant workers? I don’t see any of them here,” University of Wisconsin Spanish and Portuguese professor Jeff Kirsch said. “I’ve talked to several of them, from different types of places, and I asked them how long it would take them to find another job. Uniformly, they all say ‘today,’ ‘on the spot,’ ‘tomorrow.'”

“I asked staff members at the 31 businesses that would be the most affected by the smoking ban what they thought of it. At 23 restaurants, their reaction was, ‘I’m going to lose some regulars,’ not ‘Oh, thank God, I’ve been dying in here,'” Madison resident Scott Smith said.

No bar or restaurant workers were present to comment.

One Madison resident said he felt that because of his asthma, he is excluded from going to bars.

“Because of a physical condition, I am disqualified from patronizing or working at places,” Peter Lafferty said. “It is an equality issue. This is not a freedom issue. It is about public health — no one has a right to harm others.”

Not everyone present agreed with Lafferty. Bar owners cited their freedom to make their own choices as business owners.

“I have asthma. I have allergies. I have a bar,” Joe Evans, owner of Old Towne Pub, said. “[That those with asthma are excluded] is baloney. I want bar owners to have a choice. I don’t know when they’re going to stop with smoking bans. Fifty percent will become 75 percent and then 90 percent — that’s B.S.”

Many bar owners who have installed ventilation systems say they fear losing significant amounts of money.

“We said that if [bar owners] spent the money on a separate, ventilated room, we would not go back on our word,” Ald. Dorothy Borchardt, District 12, said.

Duli Ajdini, owner of American Table Family Restaurant on Sherman Avenue, said he feels his business will be severely affected by this loss of money. He also feels that his freedom as a business owner is being threatened.

“I grew up in a country with a lot of government,” he said. “I have lived in the U.S. for 30 years, avoiding such government. I had no choice but to comply [to 1995’s smoking ordinance] — I sold my house and spent $150,000 on a separate ventilated room. I have lots of people who work for me. They can choose to work in smoking or nonsmoking. So much government is going to kill us. I’ll have to sell my house again if I go nonsmoking.”

However, Ald. Jean MacCubbin, District 11, one of the ordinance’s sponsors, said she does not think ventilation systems are effective.

“I work for the International Mechanical Code. I know that separate ventilation only means that the air appears to be less annoying — there is less smoke haze and less smell. They don’t take out the carcinogens and residue. The air is not purified,” MacCubbin said.

Many bar owners say they feel as though they are being punished for serving food during the day, as the smoking ban would only apply to certain bars.

“Fifty percent of the business owners can do what they want. No one under 21 is allowed in my bar, and I am treated as a bar — but I don’t have the same rights as a bar!” Dino Christ, owner of Nick’s Restaurant, said. Nick’s is among those bars and restaurants that will be forced to become nonsmoking should the ordinance be passed.

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, proposed a compromise of the ordinance. Verveer’s compromise included banning smoking in designated establishments until 9 p.m., excluding private functions in separate rooms, such as banquets, parties, and wedding receptions.

He also said he would like to exempt those who have already purchased ventilation equipment from the ban, and to change the effective date, should the ordinance pass, from Jan. 2, 2003, to April 1, 2003.

After reaching a stalemate, the City Council voted unanimously to delay the vote until the next City Council meeting, Oct. 15.

“I’m pessimistic that both sides will agree to any sort of compromise. It would be rather miraculous for any compromise to be reached. It will be a very close vote,” Verveer said.

Also at the meeting, a proposal for an independent cab company was denied consideration. Mike Roach has been lobbying the city to break what he calls the city’s taxi monopoly and allow him to operate his own one-man cab company.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *