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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 8/21/2003

Bar crowds could clear haze of ban

Well, looks like the plan to put the city smoking ban on the ballot is extinguished.

Led largely by bar owners and restaurateurs, with backup from the No-Government-Interference types, a petition drive to put the issue to voters has too few valid signatures.

I rather agree with council president Louis Escobar, a ban proponent, who says he was almost-sorta-kinda sorry to see the initiative fail.

“I was hoping by bringing this to a vote,” he said in yesterday's newspaper, “they would see that this is the will of the people.”

Yeah, it would be nice to have this laid to rest, once and for all.

But maybe there's still another way, albeit less definitive, to get out the vote.

A few of us were talking in the newsroom about the prospect of unhazy Toledo bars and restaurants when we hit on a great idea.

We should show up at Arnie's Saloon after work on Monday, the first day the smoking ban takes effect.

This seems like a novel idea for a couple of reasons.

For starters, it's mind-boggling to think of walking into Arnie's Westgate-area sports bar and finding it in any other condition besides a nicotinic haze.

(Apparently there's some unwritten rule requiring everyone in metro Toledo who lights up to stop by Arnie's at least once every calendar year and do so. God knows I haven't been in there since I used to smoke, precisely for this reason.)

For another reason, I hate to think of Arnie's cash register being as empty as smoking-ban opponents claim all bar cash registers will be if patrons aren't allowed to fire up a smoke.

Arnie et al say bar owners can't make a living without their smoking customers, while nonsmokers usually say they would gladly belly up to the bar - but only when the air is clear.

Seems to me like the first day of the smoking ban would be a splendid day to put that to some kind of a test - although I grant you, Monday is no one's fave pick for Best Night to Stop and Have a Beer.

Why, some might ask, am I talking about Arnie Elzey as if he's the only place in town?

Simple.

Because Arnie became the ad hoc opponents' spokesman during this whole thing.

Or, as one reader said in an e-mail after the idea of a smoking ban first surfaced:

Can we please hurry up and get over this issue, if for no other reason than it will spare us the sight of Arnie Elzey crying wolf on the TV news night after night?

Arnie & His Smokin' Mad Biz Owners met yesterday afternoon at his eponymous bar. Their meeting was just breaking up when I called to ask about the group's “what next” strategy.

“Well, we're talking about hiring an attorney, which is always the last thing you want to do,” said Arnie, proving his sense of humor survived intact.

“There were 32 people at the bar [Tuesday] last night, and 31 of them were smoking. Where are they going to go? They won't be here ... Monday,” Arnie lamented.

Maybe not.

But maybe some new or different faces would, mine included - if he could guarantee a smoke-free room.

“Better call first,” he advised.



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