Local business owners have an opportunity this evening to voice their opinions about a proposed ban on indoor smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants.
The Board of Health, an advisory board to the City Council, is looking into tightening smoking regulations in Columbia.
This meeting is one of several opportunities for the public to weigh in on the issue.
There are about 40 nonsmoking restaurants plus 13 smoke-free franchises in Columbia, according to the Boone County Coalition for Tobacco Concerns.
Last month, Jessica Quint, a member of the board, conducted a survey of 31 of the smoke-free restaurants. Of the 26 that responded, 10 said that being nonsmoking was good for business, and 16 said it has had no effect. Eighteen of the restaurants surveyed have always been smoke-free, with one restaurant not sure how long it had been a nonsmoking establishment. For all seven of the restaurants that had previously allowed smoking, it was a local choice to go smoke-free, rather than a decision made by corporate headquarters.
The Boone Liberty Coalition, a group that opposes a city-mandated ban, lists on its Web site 21 restaurants, bars and smoke shops that oppose a ban. Five of these businesses are nonsmoking.
Supporters of the ban are emphasizing health concerns, while opponents cite economic interests and issues of personal liberty.
Flat Branch Pub and Brewing manager Rick Dieckhaus said his restaurant hasn’t received many complaints since a ban on indoor smoking began in May.
“It’s been a very positive thing,” he said. “I don’t think it has hurt business at all.”
Although going smoke-free seems to be the right decision for Flat Branch, Dieckhaus believes it’s a decision best left to individual owners. “It just depends on the atmosphere of your restaurant,” he said.