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Where There's Smoke . . .

One entrepreneur feels the heat of anti-smoking laws.
February 1, 2004
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/66470

Nearly 100 areas around the country have decreed that smoking in bars and restaurants, and often public places period, is outlawed. But what if you own, say, a cigar bar? Is it right that you aren't legally allowed to let your customers use a perfectly legal, if unhealthy, substance under your own roof? Nick Sanders doesn't believe so. The entrepreneur behind the Cincinnati-based Tavern Restaurant Group has plenty of nonsmoking eateries in Cincinnati and in Lexington and Maysville, Kentucky. But he also owns Nicholson's Cigar Bar, housed in his restaurant deSha's, in Lexington-the heart of tobacco country. At press time, an appeal was pending to a case that would render smoking in public places illegal in Lexington-which means Sanders' cigar bar may well be snuffed out.

If the ban is upheld by the courts, and people come to your cigar bar and light up anyway, will you call the police on them? And, by the way, do you smoke?

Nick Sanders: We would be compelled to ask customers to put it out, and if they refuse to, we have a choice to either remove them from the premises or call the police. We're going to enforce the law.

I don't smoke myself, and I don't really enjoy being around smokers. As a customer, I have no problem with this [anti-smoking law], but as a business, obviously there are ramifications. And we understand where [the anti-smoking activists] are coming from, but we were hoping to be exempted from the law, or at least grandfathered. It's amazing that a cigar bar previously in existence can be put out of business by a law such as this.

Does it ever bother you that you're making a profit by providing a place for people to engage in an unhealthy lifestyle?

Sanders: You can choose to come in here or not, and if you don't like smoke, don't come in. All this litigation with smoking and even fast-food restaurants is because you've got to blame somebody else for your problems or misfortunes.

I'll take that as a "no." What do you think the legacy of these anti-smoking laws will be?

Sanders: We're all concerned about government intervention. There seems to be more of it-more legislation trying to control people's lives and lifestyles. The mayor did steer me toward the city's economic development director to [get] help with redevelopment costs and tax abatements that will alleviate the burden of changing the cigar bar into something else. So that's nice, but it's still ominous knowing Big Brother is out there.


Geoff Williams is a writer in Loveland, Ohio. He can be contacted at gwilliams1@cinci.rr.com.