Clayton restaurants assail smoking ban

Clayton restaurants assail smoking ban

By Margaret Gillerman
Wednesday, May. 13 2009

CLAYTON — A group of restaurant owners told city officials Tuesday that a  proposal to require Clayton’s public places to go smoke-free could doom their  businesses.

But an almost equal number of business owners and people who work in Clayton  gave impassioned pleas for a smoke-free city at a packed hearing before the  Board of Aldermen.

Clayton is considering stamping out smoking in public places and is leading the  way in a new effort in the region. But Mayor Linda Goldstein said Tuesday night  that Clayton officials want to hear from all sides and ideas before voting.

At the hearing, opponents warned that Clayton businesses would have to shut  their doors and the city would lose sales taxes if the board enacted a smoking  ban without a similar ban taking effect throughout the metropolitan area and  statewide.

Mark Sandt, a bartender at Miso on Meramec, said that business was already down  30 to 35 percent in the current economic recession. “Honestly, I don’t think  that we can take another hit,” Sandt said.

On the other side, Fred Firestone, a Clayton resident and principal of the  Ethical Selling Institute in Clayton, said, “Please don’t be swayed by a small  vocal minority. To me, this is pretty simple. We should promote the health of  everyone by having smoke-free businesses and public places.”

Gerard Ezvan with Jon’s Pipe Shop told the board the shop had been around for  decades.

“Let the marketplace decide and not the government,” he said of the proposed smoking ban.

Tom Stern, president of Solon Gershman Inc. Commercial Real Estate, said he  opposed smoking but also the proposed ordinance.

“While the health-related issues of smoking are significant, you cannot ignore  the economic impact this proposal would have on the city,” Stern said. “For  Clayton to unilaterally impose this restriction will jeopardize businesses  which have supported the city for many years with sales, property and utility  taxes, events such as the Art Fair, Taste of Clayton and Parties in the Park,  and provide employment to hundreds who patronize shops, stores and service  providers.”

Gershman and several restaurants who opposed the idea said they would favor a  countywide or statewide smoking ban but not one that would create an uneven  playing field.

On the other side, Steve Ables, assistant director of the St. Louis County  Municipal League, told the Board of Aldermen that the organization was on  record as supporting “clean indoor air regulations in all public  establishments.”

“Clayton has the opportunity to be a regional leader in these efforts, joining  Ballwin and Arnold in our area, along with Kansas City, the state of Illinois,  among others and even entire countries” that ban smoking in public places. “It  would be a giant step in the effort to help maintain public health if the city  of Clayton were to pass such an ordinance.”

Clayton’s proposed ban has sparked a regionwide debate over smoking bans in  public places. Advocates hope it will lead to countywide and citywide bans and  eventually a ban throughout the state. Supporters include an overwhelming 77  percent of Clayton residents who answered a survey from the city.

Since the last hearing, other towns have followed Clayton’s lead, saying they  also will look into going smoke-free. Wildwood City Council members said Monday  night they would consider a ban on indoor smoking in public places after a  group of Rockwood Valley Middle School students asked them to.

Goldstein said she had received letters of support for a Clayton ban from the  city of Ferguson and Ballwin, which already has a ban in place. Chesterfield  has drafted two resolutions — one in favor of a countywide plan and another for  a statewide ban that will be considered later this month.

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