Clayton restaurants assail smoking ban
By Margaret Gillerman
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
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.