Interview: ND Bar Owner Says Smoking Ban Has Taken Away 80% Of His Business

no-smoking

News today is that North Dakota’s “smoking grade” has improved thanks to the recently-passed statewide smoking ban. Unfortunately, that ban is also killing perfectly legal and profitable businesses.

Todd Pryor is a small business owner in Minot, North Dakota. He owns the Great Plains Smoke Shop and, right next door, the Garage Lounge which is a cigar bar catering to people who want to enjoy tobacco with their drinks. In addition to himself, his businesses employ three other people.

I interviewed Mr. Pryor about the impact the state’s smoking ban has had on his business, and not surprisingly things haven’t been good. Due to the smoking ban, which requires that anyone wishing to smoke go outside and at least 20 feet away from any door or operable window on his establishment, Pryor estimates he’s lost 80% of his business.

He’s looking at losing his business thanks to the ban.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6iAixaZ7hg&w=560&h=315]

Pryor told me that he’s heard from his alcohol distributors that other bars are in trouble too, particularly smaller bars in larger cities that compete by carving out a niche catering to the “smoking crowd,” and small town bars are feeling the pinch too.

It seems odd, to this observer, that we need a smoking ban that applies to establishments that seek to cater to smokers and nobody else. Can a willing business owner not cater to a willing customer who wants to use a 100% legal product like tobacco? There are plenty of choices, when it comes to bars and restaurants and the like, for those wishing to avoid smoke. Do we really need to drive small business owners under for the sake of this modern-day prohibition movement?

Pryor’s case is a sad one, and his story ought to resonate with the state’s lawmakers and the voters who approved this sorry policy.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    the guy should be compensated from the smoking fund. The money’s sitting there up to no good.

    • sbark

      no sirreee……that money is earmarked for the next attack on private property that is good for the state and “for our own good” that we didnt realize….

  • SportsDoc

    It’s typical loser politics. The smoking lobby and its supporters drew a line in the sand several years ago. Then when they lost, they complain about the result.

    There was certainly a time, going back to the 2007 Legislature, when a compromise could have been worked out and this type of business could have been exempted. But, they drew their line in the sand, and it had so many exceptions that the legislative law, which was watered down because legislators worried about losing their next election, offended enough of the anti-smoking citizens that they came up with their own solution. And, as it turned out 65% of ND agreed.

    I supported Measure #4 for health reasons, pure and simple. Would I have supported some compromise? Absolutely. But, after 3 legislative sessions and no progress, I chose to support the citizens right of Initiated Measure #4.

    Small town bars are a perfect example. In many towns there is only one bar, so what are the choices for those who don’t want to be exposed to second hand smoke? I know, stay home! Heard it all fall. Well, I didn’t stay home, I went out and voted. The results were overwhelming.

    • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

      You’re so full of it. There’s no compromise with zealots. They take every step such as no smoking in restaurants and use that as a starting point for the next step like no smoking in bars.

      If you don’t like that people are smoking in bars don’t go in there. I don’t and I didn’t.

      • Thresherman

        You have to remember that these people lay awake at night being pissed off that people are doing things they don’t approve of and can’t rest until they put a stop to it. Puritans of the worst sort.

      • Dan

        Don’t forget that this whole ball of crap began with, “We just don’t want smoking on airplanes” back in the ?70s?…followed by movie theaters, restaurants, malls, and so on and so on.

        You’re right, there is no compromising with these zealots.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      There was certainly a time, going back to the 2007 Legislature, when a compromise could have been worked out and this type of business could have been exempted. But, they drew their line in the sand, and it had so many exceptions that the legislative law, which was watered down because legislators worried about losing their next election, offended enough of the anti-smoking citizens that they came up with their own solution. And, as it turned out 65% of ND agreed.

      Do you really think most North Dakotans understood that this statewide ban would put out of business bars that exist specifically to cater to people who want to smoke?

      It’s unfortunate that North Dakotans voted for this, but might doesn’t make right. This man is losing his business.

      Do you think that’s right?

      Small town bars are a perfect example. In many towns there is only one bar, so what are the choices for those who don’t want to be exposed to second hand smoke?

      Maybe a majority of bar customers in that town want smoking. Do their opinions not matter? Or should we all cater to the whims of just one group of people?

      • Thresherman

        By his very name, “Sports Doc” is telling us he makes a living off of the misery of others who engage in behavior that results in them hurting themselves. Maybe we should start campaigning for a ban on any sporting activity that results in physical injury to the participant. Think of the millions of dollars that it costs the taxpayers to treat these injuries. Furthermore, many sports injuries result in concussions, brain damage and death. Many of our youth receive injuries that they will suffer from for the rest of their lives. When it has comes to the point that entire professions are popping up just to profit from these injuries, it is time to time to put the public interest first and say no to Big Sports Medicine and their never-ending greed for more profits off of the misery of our youth.

        Some people wouldn’t recognize a slippery slope even if they did a face plant right in the middle of it.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          By his very name, “Sports Doc” is telling us he makes a living off of the misery of others who engage in behavior that results in them hurting themselves.

          I don’t think that’s very fair. I think Sports Doc is wrong on this policy, but I also think his motivates are pure.

          Let’s not make this personal.

          • Thresherman

            My intent was to make it personal only in so far as to set an example of how some people have no problem with depriving others of their livelihood but it is another kettle of fish entirely when it is their ox being gored. Other than that it was simply a sarcastic piece meant to show how the anti-smoking arguments could be used to attack even something as healthy and character building as sports.

    • Thresherman

      Tap dance around it all you want, but at the end of the day the smoking ban was no more than one group of people imposing their behavioral choices on another group.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        Exactly. Well said. But unfortunately, some people think that’s right because a majority went along with it.

      • camsaure

        Not only that, they sort of got a “twofer” out of the deal. A big victory for prohibition. They put smokeshops out of business and also made a big step for making an endrun towards alchol probition by putting bars out of business. Al this plus ursurping private property rights.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Non-smoking bars do just fine, because there’s plenty of demand (that’s where I prefer to go). I don’t understand why we couldn’t let the smoking bars operate too.

          Everyone gets a choice.

          • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

            You can have any choice you want as long as it’s a choice approved by the anti-smoking nazis.

          • camsaure

            I agree it should be decided upon by owners only, not a bunch of activist”do gooders”.

    • dlao

      A majority also elected Adolph Hitler.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        Indeed. Majorities also once felt that slavery was ok, that women shouldn’t vote and that it was ok to make colored people use separate water fountains.

        They were wrong, too.

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    Remember how the anti smoking nazis said they cared about the workers in these bars? I’m sure they’re going to take up a collection to help them now that they’re unemployed.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      They only cared about them in so far as they were useful to their crusade.

  • headward

    More proof that we don’t own anything. Just renting it from the government.

  • nimrod

    He could convert it to a marijuana bar and wait for couple years when the voters approve smoking weed in public businesses.

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