Webster Groves smoking ban
Nearly one year after St. Louis’ city and county wide smoking ban went into effect, Webster Groves restaurants continue to thrive and haven’t seen any decline in business.
“Initially, sales were up because people were excited,” Weber’s Front Row assistant general manager Jeff Hrasky said. “I think a lot of people were discovering new restaurants because they were smoky before.”
The ban, which went into effect on Jan. 2, 2011, covers most enclosed public spaces. This includes restaurants, bowling alleys, shopping malls and taxis. Exempt from the ban are businesses bringing in 75 percent or more of revenue from alcohol. Outdoor dining areas are also exempt.
Many local business owners and managers said they are in favor of the law because they consider their restaurants to be family-oriented establishments.
“We weren’t that nervous because, at least at our Webster location, there are a lot of families that come and it’s more of a neighborhood place,” Llyewlyn’s Pub assistant general manager Ashley Ryan said.
However, because the ban affects some counties and not others, Bill Kunz, owner of Highway 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen, worries that the ban may eventually have a negative effect on his restaurant and others’.
“I’m in favor and against it,” Kunz said. “I think it needs to be a state referendum, not a county-by-county, city-by-city thing. I think if one city does it and a neighboring city doesn’t, it hurts the businesses within the city that does it. If you’re a borderline business in (St. Louis) county and people go over to St. Charles or Jefferson County, it hurts you.”
However, it seems current customers are satisfied with smoke free restaurants. During the St. Louis Cardinals’ recent run in the World Series, Hrasky said Weber’s was as popular as ever, despite being smoke-free.
“One of the games was one of the busiest nights we’ve had in our 20 years,” he said.
Llyewlyn’s had a similar crowd during the World Series.
“People still come, they just go outside during commercial breaks,” Ryan said.
Though Kunz said the ban has actually picked up business in the Highway 61 Roadhouse bar, previously the restaurant’s smoking area, there is one negative effect from the ban that he sees quite frequently
“I see a lot more cigarette butts on the ground,” Kunz said. “We have an ashtray there, but it’s like they’re protesting by throwing it directly on the ground.”