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Smoking is on the outs

John GardnerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox
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Smoking is no longer allowed in local watering holes or any other indoor establishments within our state’s borders. Colorado’s not the first to adopt such a law, and it probably won’t be the last, either.Now, an evening out may begin by trudging through a flock of smokers before entering an establishment.The whole segregation of smokers and nonsmokers has everyone choosing sides. However, the indoor versus outdoor tug of war may result in a stalemate.”It’s a catch-22,” said Sharon Wright, owner of Narcissus Hair Salon on Grand Avenue in downtown Glenwood Springs. “It should be up to the individual bar owners. It’s not right to put some of the smaller places out of business.”That’s the way many people feel, smokers or non, about the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act that told smokers to take it outside starting July 2006.Government forced smokers outside of businesses in hopes of creating a healthier atmosphere for patrons and employees. However, that imposition has smokers and non-smokers split down the middle like donkeys and elephants.John Ator of Glenwood Springs, who is a smoker, said that it’s not that big of a deal to go outside for a smoke.”I’d rather be in the warm bar drinking a cold beer and having a smoke, but I can’t,” he said.Beth Dardynski, a nonsmoker, said that she supports the ban, adding that it’s something that most people don’t think about anymore, unless confronted with it.”You don’t realize how bad it was until you go back,” Dardynski said.Dardynski, who lives in Glenwood Springs but is originally from the East Coast, said that she’s been back East to visit on several occasions visiting establishments that still allow smoking. That’s when she misses the fresh smoke-free indoor air of Colorado.”If they don’t like the smell why don’t they tell all the guys driving diesel trucks to turn off their engines, too,” Ator said.But Dardynski, along with Wright, said her biggest gripe is the cigarette butts that litter the downtown sidewalks.”Something needs to be done to keep the sidewalks clean,” Dardynski said.Ator commented that their aren’t any ashtrays downtown for the smokers to use.”I put mine out and stick the butt in my pocket,” Ator said. “Not all smokers do that, but I don’t want to leave them around because it’s not good for the town. It looks horrible.”

When the smoking ban snuffed out smoking in indoor public places including bars, the residual effects have become a force to be reckoned with. Smokers havelined the sides of Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs, just like other towns across the state, since last July.When morning comes, gutters and sidewalks are cluttered with cigarette butts.Wright’s hair salon is located next to Doc Holliday’s Saloon. She said that since the implementation of the smoking ban she and her employees start every day cleaning up the sidewalk in front of her business.”The worst part is all the cigarette butts,” Wright said. “The 15-foot rule places people right in front of our business.”Wright stressed the fact that she doesn’t have a problem with the bars next door to her salon and said that she agreed with the ban even though she has to clean up after the bar’s customers every morning.”It’s still better than before,” she said.Several calls to Doc Holliday’s Saloon seeking comment for this story were not returned. Businesses like Sacred Grounds Coffee House and Delicatessen and the Book Train on the other side of Grand Avenue have taken a more proactive approach to the problem and have placed ashtrays on the sidewalk in hopes to alleviate the litter. However, getting smokers to use the ashtrays is like starting the tug of war all over.”I would like to make a public plea for the smokers to pick up after themselves,” said Joel Karr, owner of Sacred Grounds.

The ideal thing would be to have no residual presence from smokers, Karr added. He was unsure of what the city could do to help out, but, according to Glenwood Springs City Manager Jeff Hecksel, it’s the business owners’ responsibility to maintain the sidewalks.”It’s just really unfortunate,” Hecksel said. “It’s frustrating because when the law was passed I don’t think anyone thought we would be feeling the effects that we have. And now we have to deal with it.”Hecksel said that according to state statute it is up to the individual business owner to clean the sidewalks; however that is something that can be changed, and the city could be called upon to do something. Hecksel also mentioned the negative environmental impact that is affecting the Colorado River. During the warmer months if the butts are swept into the gutter they are picked up by a street sweeper and disposed of. But during the winter months, the street sweepers aren’t running and the butts swept into the gutter are flushed into the storm drains that empty into the river.”The biggest issue is the garbage,” Hecksel said. “Until we figure something out that works, I’m not sure of all we can do. I wouldn’t say that (the city has) done nothing. But what we have done may not have worked as well as we have hoped.”Helen Rodgers of the Rifle Downtown Business Association said that they’ve done everything from placing receptacles in several places downtown to hiring a part-time employee to pick up the trash and the butts.”We’re just trying to be proactive rather than reactive,” Rodgers said. “The smoking receptacles seem to help some, but there are some people that don’t use a container and never will. It’s been very difficult to deal with.”The residual effects felt by Sacred Grounds and the hair salon still haven’t affected business to the extent the bars have felt.



Bars have seen the worst of it, without a doubt. And like smoking, the effects of the ban may take a while to take hold.Suleiman Abuhalimeh, owner of the Lighthouse Grill and Bar in Rifle, said that he’s seen about a one-third decrease in business since last July.”Absolutely,” he said. “As a businessman it hurts, absolutely.”Other places have faired better with the reinvigorated smoke-free atmosphere. Glenwood’s 19th Street Diner has seen an increase in patrons. The diner has a dining room in the front and a bar in the back that used to allow smoking.”After the ban took affect I did witness a decrease in liquor sales,” said 19th Street Diner owner Rick Wernsmann.However, liquor sales only slumped for the first month of the ban. For the month of August 2006, Wernsmann said that he saw an increase in liquor sales over August 2005.And with the bar section now being nonsmoking as well, Wernsmann said that he saw an exponential increase in food sales because people coming in for lunch or dinner were more apt to sit in the bar and eat.”I’m not a smoker, but I am a business owner,” Wernsmann said. “I don’t think that the government should be involved.”Wernsmann said that the majority of his customers share the same opinion. Spending time as a bartender as well, he hears what patrons have to say all the time, and it’s the same old gripe, government shouldn’t be involved.”The normal talk even with the nonsmokers is that it’s not the government’s position,” Wernsmann said. Abuhalimeh agreed with Wernsmann, stating that it should be a decision for the individual owner to make.”I have no choice. I have to do it,” Abuhalimeh said.Abuhalimeh said that with the unforeseen troubles with trash, it’s not only up to the owners to keep the sidewalks clean, it’s also the responsibility of the smokers, too. And Wernsmann agreed.”This is a beautiful state we live in,” Wernsmann said. “There are always a few people that don’t care about it, but I wish they would want to keep it that way.”Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. 16604jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO


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