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Friday, February 24, 2006

Ban makes customers disappear

From the Highline Times (www.highlinetimes.com)

Ban makes customers disappear
By Sara Loken
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Two months after Washington’s statewide smoking ban took effect, some Highline area businesses are feeling its impact.

Although it’s still too soon to tell what effect the ban will have at some businesses, others were feeling its effect within days of the new prohibition on smoking in public places.

“We’ve seen business decrease about 40 percent almost immediately after the ban,” said James Rowland, top bartender for the Dugout Lounge in Des Moines. “My wages were just cut in half.”

But, said Roger Lorge, manager at The Yardarm in Des Moines, “It’s too early to tell its effects.”

Gambling and liquor sales are down, and some clientele has been lost, said Lorge. “Without our food business, we wouldn’t make it. Hopefully, food will carry us through.”

“We do what we can, but I would love to see the ban gone,” said Rowland.

Local casinos are feeling new competition with the smoking ban.

“People are going to the tribal casinos to gamble and smoke,” said Rowland.

“The state has really tied our hands,” said Brian Toms, owner of Rascals Casino in Burien.

Non-tribal casinos can’t really do anything since the tribal casinos still can allow smoking as well, said Toms.

He saw a decrease in customers as early as the second day of the ban, which went into effect in December.

“There has been a pretty dramatic decrease,” Toms said.

But some casinos aren’t feeling the drastic downturn in business that resulted from the ban at other casinos.

It hasn’t created a significant change, said Chad Marker, shift manager for Northstar Casino in Tukwila.

“We feel the effects more on the weekends,” Marker said. “We’re lucky because we’re not close to competitors. We’re thirty minutes away from tribal casinos.”

While there has been no increase in customers since the ban went into effect, there has been only “a marginal decrease,” said Marker.

Winter weather could also play a role in the decrease of customers.

“The older couples that used to come in don’t anymore because they don’t want to go in and out of the cold,” said Rowland.

Northstar Casino made an outdoor smoking area with heaters.

While the smoking ban has affected some businesses, law enforcement officials say these businesses have been good about keeping the smoking outside.

“There has been good compliance from businesses because we have not had any calls come in regarding smoking,” said Burien Police Chief Scott Kimerer.

If a call were to come in pertaining to the smoking ban, police officials would treat it as a low-priority call, said Kimerer.

The first night after the ban was enacted a few police officers came in and checked around, “but that’s the only time,” said Lorge.

But Lorge is optimistic about the new ban. “It’s a lot nicer environment to work in,” he said. “It’s a wave of the future.”

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