COMMUNITY COMMENTARY:

As a native of Kansas, I often return to my home away from home — the college town of Lawrence.

Lawrence went smokeless some years ago, amid concerns expressed by the student population as well as local business owners.

One of those businesses is the local microbrewery. Since its inception, it has been possibly one of the most remarkable success stories in the city’s history. It not only boasts award-winning beers, but a menu that has diners lining up out into the winter nights to wait for a seat.

Friends of mine, who invested when it started up, just roll their eyes when I ask how much they have made in the past 20 years.

When the smokeless initiative was first floated, the owner of the brewery, a good friend of mine, was one of the most vocal anti-initiative activists.

With all the student traffic, outlawing smoking would kill the golden goose.

He produced charts, graphs and studies that indicated a smoking ban would not only cripple his business, but the entire downtown bar and restaurant scene.

Flash forward five years, and one of my favorite activities when I now visit Lawrence is to spot the business owner of the microbrewery and ask if he can sneak us ahead of the line — there is usually a 45-minute wait — and tell him how sorry I am that business is so terrible. He stares at his shoes.

The bar scene is thriving, and the music venues — where cigarette smoke used to be so overpowering that the young coeds would leave their coats in their cars and freeze rather than have them smell for two weeks — are sold out nightly.

This might not be a scientific study, but in the case of Lawrence — with its huge smoking population — businesses were seemingly not affected in the least.

Smokers were furious, but they got over it.

On a selfish note, it is heaven to be able to enjoy a bowl of gumbo at the microbrewery without a blast of cigarette smoke wafting from the smoking section.

This notion that Glendale businesses are going to suffer undue hardship is a speculative strawman argument (“Smoke ban is facing critics,” Monday).

If a quality bar or restaurant is popular now, it will remain so.

If a bar, restaurant or entertainment facility is popular primarily because it is a place where smokers can congregate and it happens to experience a drop-off in business — so be it.

The fact that we have a disproportionately high smoking population does not dictate that we bend to the will of the minority.

While the business community continues to wield a sledgehammer in this city — with City Hall’s blessing — their protestations of a smoking ban, including the ever popular “soft economy” hand-wringing is just another example of lobbying for what is good for business and not what is good for everyone.

Ban away. It’s about time.


 GARY DURRETT is a Glendale resident.

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