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Published: Sunday, 7/13/2003

Three down, two to go for Toledo bar owners

I can't say I blame the Toledo bar owners who oppose the city's smoking ban for making such doom-and-gloom predictions. After all, they genuinely believe their business could die.

According to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, people pass through these five stages as they react to their impending death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

So for the doom-and-gloom owners, it's three down and two to go.

(Keep in mind, just because owners believe a smoking ban will suck the life out of their bar doesn't mean it's going to happen. But they believe it, so they find themselves immersed in the five-stage process.)

During the denial and anger phases, I was sympathetic toward their plight. Who among us can't relate to the fear of the unknown? And I was still with them as they entered the bargaining stage.

They asked Toledo City Council to exclude bars, bowling alleys, and bingo halls from the ordinance. They wanted the ban to apply only to restaurants. This type of plea was expected, and council, as expected, stayed the course.

On Tuesday, City Council voted 11-0 to approve the ban. It's scheduled to take effect Aug. 24.

Toward the end of the bargaining phase, I perceived that bar owners were becoming more desperate. Their predictions turned more ominous -- customers will flee, seemingly en masse, to suburban bars.

That's when they lost me.

If Toledo bars lose business to bars in Sylvania, Maumee, Oregon, Holland, Whitehouse, or any township in Lucas County, I'm not going to shed a tear.

You see, the smoking ban could have encompassed all of Lucas County. But a coalition of bar owners, led by Arnie Elzey, wouldn't have anything to do with it.

On May 24, 2001, the Toledo-Lucas County board of health approved a countywide smoking ban. Weeks later, the coalition filed a lawsuit and successfully blocked the ban from taking effect July 10. The ban didn't emerge from the legal system until Aug. 28, 2002, when the Ohio Supreme Court rejected it.

With the countywide ban no longer an option, Toledo Mayor Jack Ford stepped forward and asked City Council to come up with a resolution. To its credit, it did.

The process was fair. And the vote was unanimous. Mr. Ford said the vote was “gratifying because it sends a very clear message” to Toledoans.

Nothing personal, bar owners, but you're on your own for the depression and acceptance phases.

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Wanting to see history being made, I attended Tuesday's council meeting. The youngest person there, however, was oblivious to the day's significance.

Lucas Szollosi, the 22-month-old son of Councilman Frank Szollosi, was held by his grandmother, Emma Orvecz, as the vote took place.

“I certainly thought of him and his generation,” Mr. Szollosi said the next day.

Someday, Lucas Szollosi will be sitting around with his friends and someone will say, “Did you know they used to allow smoking inside restaurants and bars?”

They won't believe it.

Maybe then Lucas will realize the significance of what his father, and fellow council members, did on July 8, 2003.



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