What is this, the controversy that won't go away?
No, no. I'm not talking about Ray Kest. (Ray will apparently never go away, and that should surprise no one.)
No, I'm talking about the smoking ban.
For a law that went into effect Sunday, it's had a persistent showing on local-news radar screens deep into the week. Opponents were at it again yesterday, meeting to plan their next step. Round II looks like The Compromise Phase, as in, “OK, look, if we agree to that restaurant stuff, will you at least give us back the bars?''
Look, there are a variety of ways to frame the smoking-ban issue. Some argue that it treads on individual rights. Others say it tramples on the business community's right to self-determination. Then there are those who insist it's another case of government exceeding its authority. Personally, I call it a matter of public health.
But never mind all that.
Shove aside “rights'' and/or “public policy,'' and view the smoking ban as a shrewd, competitive business owner. Furthermore, don't think of smoking as something controversial; just think of it as a downward trend, because it is.
Now, what is inevitably splattered on the cover of magazines aimed at small-business owners? Typically, it's a story with a headline something like this: How To Spot And Profit From The “Next Big Thing!''
Even as the hospitality industry scrambles this week to figure out if they can afford to add on the kind of separately ventilated spaces that could still offer sanctuary to smokers, the fact of the matter is this: Sometime soon, public smoking will be regarded as completely socially unacceptable.
But for those businesses that insist on catering to a dying market, then buck up: Building a “smoking addition'' is simply the cost of doing business.
We don't hear bar and restaurant owners gripe about other necessary costs of doing business - for example, complying with regulations that safeguard public health. But I'm sure that first week, years ago, when “health inspector'' became an actual occupation, the folks who ran commercial kitchens felt mighty imposed upon.
But even today, just look at results of health inspections at area restaurants, which is easy to do since they're published regularly in The Blade. There's some scary stuff going on in government-regulated kitchens, and hey, these are places TRYING to avoid citations!
Without regulation, do you think the incidence of, say, inadequately heated soup or refrigerated eggs would be any less? C'mon. Get real.
Yet restaurant owners long ago reconciled themselves to compliance as, yes, the cost of doing business - and even smart business - just as, someday, they'll fall in line with Toledo's forward-looking smoking ban.
CODA: Last week, I encouraged nonsmokers to patronize our newly smoke-free places. And, as promised, I went to Arnie's Saloon on Monday night after work.
(Felt like the World's Most Negligent Mom, too, when I told my teen daughter, “I'll be a little late tonight. I've got to hit a bar and drink some beer.'' Cripes, I see child welfare chief Dean Sparks picking up his phone.)
Anyway, thanks, Arnie, for so kindly - or impishly - putting “Welcome Roberta'' on your marquee.