Editors Note: This is the third of a four-part series examining issues in the upcoming election for Carbondale mayor.
Smoke-free bars and restaurants may be in Carbondale’s future.
As elections for City Council and mayor draw closer, the once-failed initiative to ban smoking in workplaces is gathering steam once again.
Seven of the 11 candidates running for council and mayor in Tuesday’s primary election support the ban.
The push for a workplace smoking ban, which would include bars and restaurants, failed in November when the City Council deadlocked in a 3-3 vote, with one member abstaining.
The emotional meeting on Nov. 21 and the ordinance’s eventual defeat inspired Dr. Mary Pohlmann to run for City Council.
“We started thinking, ‘We just need to get people on the City Council who support Smoke Free Carbondale,'” said Pohlmann, who is the chairwoman of the anti-smoking coalition.
Pohlmann and the other smoke-free supporters rely heavily on the petition of 3,000 Carbondale residents and survey done this summer as evidence that the city is ready and needs an indoor smoking ban.
The results showed that of the 400 registered voters in Jackson County surveyed, 75 percent saw secondhand smoke as a threat, about 65 percent did not feel protected by separate smoking sections, and 23 percent said they would eat out more often if a ban was in effect.
Pohlmann said while she didn’t recruit the other six supporters to run for council or mayor, she was delighted to see so many believe in the cause.
Joining Pohlmann and running for City Council’s three open seats is Elizabeth Lewin, Joe Moore and Paulette Sherwood. Running for mayor and in support of the ban is Jessica Davis, Pepper Holder and Sheila Simon.
Against the resolution is current Councilman Lance Jack, as well as Luanne Brown. Councilman Steven Haynes is still abstaining from issuing an opinion on the ordinance because his employer, Kroger, sells cigarettes. In the mayoral race, incumbent Brad Cole stands alone against the ordinance.
Pinch Penny Pub owner James Karayiannis fought against the ordinance when the council considered it in November, but looking to the future, he said he knows it’s bound to happen eventually.
“It’s inevitable,” Karayiannis said. “I’m convinced before I die that you won’t be able to buy cigarettes.”
Karayiannis said besides having to endure additional regulations, he isn’t sold that there is truly a market for a smoke-free bar.
“If there was as much market as everyone claims there is for a smoke-free bar, then why aren’t there any (in Carbondale)?” he said.
Nights Over Egypt, 218 N. Illinois Ave., is the only smoke-free bar in Carbondale.
Mayor Brad Cole said he’d rather leave the decision to the free market, by offering incentives for businesses to become smoke-free, rather than use government mandates.
In 2005, Cole proposed an ordinance, which the council later passed, that waived liquor license fees for bars and restaurants that agreed to ban smoking in their establishments.
To date, 47 Carbondale eateries ranging from McDonald’s to Alongi’s to Harbaugh’s have agreed to ban smoking.
Councilwoman Sheila Simon said she supports the Smoke Free Carbondale cause because she believes workers should have a right to a smoke-free environment. She said she voted against Cole’s proposal because she didn’t like that the city was going to be giving away liquor license fees.
Council hopeful and SIUC student Joe Moore agrees. He said jobs can be limited in a college town. He said some students often have no choice but to choose a job that will supply tips, but also be in a smoky atmosphere such as a bar.
“You do have a choice as a consumer where you go – there is no question about that – but not so much where you work,” he said.
Jack, who is hoping to retain his council seat, said he believes government should not regulate how private businesses operate – especially when dealing with a legal product. Jack said the incentive program has been successful enough to prove that the private sector can respond to its customers without government regulation.
Springfield was one of the most recent communities to join a slew of Illinois cities that require workplaces to ban smoking. Sammy’s Sports Bar ‘ Grill general manager Justin Jones said business has suffered since the September ban.
He said Springfield’s biggest problem is that many of his regulars who also smoke are able to drive a few miles out of town to a smaller municipality such as Chatham to drink and smoke at a bar.
The bar’s lunch and dinner crowd hasn’t lessened, but he said the bar, which used to see 500 to 600 patrons on a Friday night, now sees an average of 200 fewer people.
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