By Seann McAnally
The Grandview Board of Aldermen is set to pass a smoking ban, and some bar owners aren’t happy about it. They made their voices heard at the May 24 regular session of the Board of Aldermen.
The proposed ordinance, which was brought forward by aldermen Leonard Jones and Joe Runions, would ban indoor smoking everywhere except for private residences. Bars could be exempt, but only by installing ventilation systems that completely remove smoke from the building without circulating it into the HVAC system. That’s because most bars in Grandview are in strip malls and share heating and cooling systems with their neighbors.
Aldermen Jones and Runions, along with aldermen Brent Steeno and John Maloney, have stated publicly that they would vote for a ban. Alderwoman Annette Turnbaugh said she will vote against a ban.
Alderman Jim Crain, however, said he has wrestled with the issue, primarily because he is hesitant to place a financial hardship on bar owners by requiring separate ventilation.
About two dozen people showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to oppose the ban. About half a dozen spoke, urging the board to exempt bars.
“85 percent of my customers are smokers,” said Mike Cherry, owner of Open Road Bar & Grill. “People come from all over just to come to Grandview to smoke. I think Grandview needs to spend more time trying to keep the businesses we have, rather than running them off.”
Lonnie Mabin, owner of Babeeboys, said it would be too costly for most owners to install a new HVAC system. He said such systems would generate unforeseen maintenance costs.
“I don’t know about you, but our light bill, our gas bill, is already high enough,” he said. “Quite frankly, we as owners can’t afford the up-front costs of the equipment, let alone ongoing costs.”
Wendy Orlando, owner of Jeremiah Bullfrogs and a non-smoker, said she knows first-hand that banning smoking can only hurt, not help, her business. She’s been through a ban once before.
“In a perfect world, we would prefer not to work in a smoking environment, but we make that choice,” she said. “We went through this once in Olathe. When Olathe went smoke free, we almost lost our business.”
She said Jeremiah Bullfrogs started as a non-smoking bar when it opened in Grandview, but soon switched to smoking.
“We thought there should be at least one non-smoking bar in Grandview,” she said. “But those 80 percent of people you say don’t smoke? They never showed up.”
Yvette Jones, who works at Babeeboys, urged the board to look at the issue from an emotional and financial standpoint, rather than a political one.
“This is some people’s livelihood,” Jones said. “We have three generations working at some of these bars. If they lose their business, are you going to ask them to start over? Say it’s not your fault?”
The board is scheduled to discuss the issue further at its June 7 work session. The public is welcomed to attend, but are typically not allowed to address the board at work sessions.
No date has yet been set to vote on the smoking ban ordinance.