Smoke ban takes hold
On Monday, Wisconsin Act 12, known as the workplace smoking ban, went into affect, making it illegal to smoke inside all bars, restaurants, private clubs or workplaces throughout the state.
For some locals, the statewide smoking ban is a breath of fresh air. Others argue it’ll create a drag on business. Still others think the ban infringes on personal rights.
Many agreed it was only a matter of time before public places in Wisconsin went smoke-free.
“You knew it was coming. It’s like this everywhere else,” Rich Gregg of Janesville said Monday, taking a drag off of a cigarette.
Gregg was standing by an ashtray outside the front door at Wiggy’s Saloon, a bar at 9 N. Parker Drive in downtown Janesville. He finished his smoke and went back inside, laughing.
“It’s no big deal to smoke outside. Everybody’s in the same boat here,” he said.
Inside the bar, owner Pat Wygans said he wasn’t worried about the smoking ban.
“Most of my lunch customers, I’d say the majority of them, don’t even smoke,” he said.
Some customers like the clean air. Like Mike Deleo, a customer at Wiggy’s who was visiting from Rockford, Ill. For Deleo, the new smoke-free atmosphere was nothing new. In Illinois, a public smoking ban has been in place for a few years.
Deleo said before Wisconsin’s ban started Monday, the state’s smoky bars really bothered him.
“Before now, you’d go to a casino up here, or something. You’d get back to the hotel and it’s like, you’d just have to bag up your clothes and throw them away. The smoke, it was just out of control,” he said.
Chris Long of Rockford, a friend of Deleo’s, agreed.
“Seriously, once you get used to there being no smoke in restaurants, it’s way better,” Long said.
But not everyone is looking forward to the smoking ban.
At Wierdo’s Bar and Grill, 209 W. Milwaukee St., Janesville, customer Rick Cook of Janesville stared ahead, drinking a can of Old Style. In the background, the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” played on a jukebox.
“This whole ‘No Smoking’ thing, it’s going to kill people. I mean, small businesses, that is,” he said.
Cook doesn’t even smoke. Still, he says the state government is stepping over the line with its smoking ban—particularly the $100 to $250 fine customers and business owners can get for violating it.
“It’s like a dictator thing. It’s not right. People and business owners should have the right to choose whether they want the smoking,” he said.
Teri Curtis, a bartender at Weirdo’s, didn’t disagree. All afternoon she’d been sending smokers out the bar’s rear exit, where she’d put a large ashtray.
Curtis worries the spot won’t be roomy enough when the bar gets busy. She estimates 80 percent of the bar’s patrons smoke.
While some local bars have outdoor patios where smoking is allowed, or the space to build them, Weirdo’s isn’t as lucky. The bar abuts a city-owned parking lot to the west, leaving owners little room to expand.
“Maybe we’ll be fine for now,” Curtis said. “But what about when it’s five below outside?”
Jamie Jones, owner of Rivers Edge Bowl at 215 S. River St., Janesville, said he’d replaced all of the bowling alley’s ashtrays with “No Smoking” signs. He said he’s not sure how the smoking ban will affect business at the alley.
“After Labor Day, when the fall and winter leagues kick in, we’ll really find out what kind of impact this ban has,” he said.
At the alley Monday were nine children bowling with their families. One customer, Jennifer Babcock of Janesville, had brought her month-old infant in.
“I don’t agree with this new law totally,” Babcock said. “But I guess if you’ve got kids, it’s nice to go somewhere like a bowling alley and have it not be all smoky.”
For customer Dawn Schlegel, a smoker, life will go on following the state’s public smoking ban. Schlegel said she plans to keep coming to Weirdo’s, even if some of her friends decide to stay home where they can smoke.
It’ll just take her some time to adjust.
“A couple times I’m sitting here, and I can feel myself reaching for a cigarette,” she said. “But then, I remember, I can’t smoke in here.”