Skip to comments.CO: Ban Damage: CO And now, the roofs begin tumbling down
Posted on 07/31/2006 5:15:29 AM PDT by SheLion
The issue is no longer just about smoking.
Passing a state law outlawing smoking in most public places was, by this comparison, the easiest thing to do.
The law was not required to address the inevitable hardships such a bill was destined to inflict.
There was clapping and backslapping on the floor of the state Senate the afternoon it passed there. But none of that really matters now, when the issue is one of how it impacts people's lives.
They are men and women who once ran tiny, yet prosperous, packed-to- the-kegs establishments, who now tend mostly empty bars. The looks on their faces would be no different had their roofs actually fallen in.
They call me. What am I supposed to do, I ask? Write about it, they respond.
What has happened is a statewide tragedy, sponsored by the government. And where are all of the people, they all want to know, that the government promised would flock to their now-smoke-free bars?
The loudest of them, of course, has been Jim VonFeldt, owner of the venerable Billy's Inn at 44th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard.
In the weeks between the governor's signing of the bill and July 1, when the law went into effect, he rallied a relatively small band of tavern owners to challenge the law in court.
A judge denied their sought-after injunction. The litigation itself remains pending in the courts.
Jim VonFeldt has just returned to Billy's from his banker when he calls me, yet again.
He has owned the place for 21 years; his wife's family owned it for nearly 20 years before that. His two grown children are his only employees.
And now, he wants to talk.
It is just after 1 p.m. when I walk into the joint. The only sound emanates from a television in the corner, droning a detective show. Only bearded, vacant-eyed Jay, who has occupied the same far-corner barstool for decades, inhabits the place.
Jim VonFeldt walks up from the back, carrying a large stack of documents. He begins reading from them.
Total business is off 35.14 percent since July 1, he begins. Liquor sales, jukebox, cigarette, vending and Lotto scratch-off machine receipts have declined in 23 short days by at least half.
"That video golf game used to average $75 to $100 a week. The last two weeks, the vendor and I split the 6 bucks that were in it," Jim VonFeldt says.
"Where are all these people the government told me would make my life better? My most loyal customers come, but maybe they have a drink. Most have just stopped coming altogether."
As leader of the Coalition for Equal Rights, the tavern owners' group, he gets calls every day, he says. Three come in as we chat, including one from the lawyer representing the group.
"This is simply crippling," he moans into the phone to the lawyer. Hanging up, he beseeches me to look at the blue folder in front of him. It is filled with his complete financial records, the same ones he has just handed his banker at Chase to leverage his house to the hilt in order to pay his bills. I decline.
So he hands me his state workers compensation bill.
"I don't have the money. All of my cash flow has been depleted," Jim VonFeldt said. "And if I don't have workers comp, I can be fined up to $17,000. I don't know what I am going to do."
To emphasize his point, he walks me to the automatic teller machine I had used a month before.
A large "out of order" sign now lies across the keyboard.
"I don't have enough $20 bills to put in it," he says.
He reads from a stack of notes taken during myriad recent conversations with Coalition members, of patrons saying they are going outside for a smoke but never come back, of fights the bartenders inside can no longer break up, of thieves cleaning out cash registers when bartenders themselves sneak out for a drag or two.
Many owners, Jim VonFeldt says, are doing what he did two days ago: writing Bill Owens and begging for an exemption to the law.
"The ban has decimated my business," his letter to the governor begins. "I am one or two weeks away from bankruptcy.
"If I lose this, so goes my whole family. Please grant this exemption for my family."
The last sentence he has typed in large bold letters.
While he waits to hear back from the governor, he fumes.
"We've got young men now fighting all over the world for what they tell us is for democracy and freedom," Jim VonFeldt, 60, said.
"Yet our own government is taking away my freedom to operate my business right here at home. It's just not right."
"At a time when I should be planning for retirement and the good things in life, the only thing I'm planning is how to survive. If I fail - and this worries me the most - I fail my children.
"I don't know what I am going to do."
Smoking Bans are crippling the economy!
Another private business being sucked under by a few government officials who could give a damn!
But just think of all the lives that are being saved.
Nope - now they are going to illegal smoke filled bars. And the government won't get any of the taxes for that. Reminds me of Prohibition - which didn't work either but at least the government do-gooders understood they had to change the constitution to do it...
If the bars are empty, I wonder if DUI's are down?
"We can't be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America."
Fewer drunks running over people or less bar profits. Tough choice.
Do you have statistics to back that up?
This is only the beginning. Liberal governments will continue to implement control over every aspect of your lives, from what you eat to how much sleep you should have. The communist dream is getting closer. Soon everyone will make the same amount of money, those exeeding the pre-determined limit will have it taxed away. Everyone will then be "equal". Those too lazy to work will make the same on social assistance, live in the same government housing as those who "work", ride the same mandatory government transit system (commuting to work by car will be banned because of global warming control) and chew on the same brick of government artifial nutrient packed cheese.
So much for "the land of the free". We aren't free, it's just an illusion, and even that is fading fast.
Free Republic has replaced my neighborhood tavern.
I mix my own drinks and pocket the profits and tips.
I don't have any danger of a DUI.
I smoke fine cigars without dirty looks from fellow patrons.
It's open 24 hours a day.
Since they passed the smoke free ordinance around here, the only bars prospering are gay.
You would think so. My Dad was killed by a drunk driver that was on his way home from the bar. Lets face it, you drive to the bar and leave a much poorer driver. ( but you think you're better) On the other hand I believe in personal responsibility
so I'm really torn in cases like this.
And the things likely going on in there and following encounters there are more hazardous to the patrons health than any smoking that was going on in the taverns before the ban.....
hehe, I know it!
Got it in one!
(Note: stay out of the lavatories. What goes on in there isn't fitting to speak of. If you gotta go, use the alley.)
Sounds like with the smoking ordinance you'll accomplish both.
Good question. People will just drink and smoke at home or at friends homes. Or party at a rock quarry. :)
I detest those who drive drunk, but I am a fierce believer in personal responsibility. Why should I be punished for the actions of others? Why should I lose my freedoms because others abuse them?
Man, Ray, you are such a schmuck.
Like the only people that frequent bars are smokers that get drunk, go out and drive, and run people over.
Your agenda is showing. again.
BILLY'S?!?! That place is like a landmark for me.
Liiks like I'll have to make a little trip down Lowell today.
Thanks for the ping. We knew it all along, huh? Sad, pathetic, antibusiness SOBs.
I hear THAT! The same here. My friends come over and we gather here, smoke, drink whatever we like. I feel sorry for the businesses in town, but hey! I refuse to go to a restaurant and/or bar or tavern and spend my good money in a reform school setting. No way!
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