Nine bite-size Lemmon Drops on a topic that won't go away: Be careful what you wish for, Toledo bar owners.
I would hate for you to gather 9,479 valid signatures -- the number required to put a measure to modify Toledo's smoking ban on the November ballot -- only to see voters reject it.
What would you do then? Would you accept the vote and move on, or would you continue to whine?
I found it ironic that Toledo's change-resistant bar owners announced they were starting a petition drive the same week that Rhode Island became the seventh state to approve a statewide smoking ban and Ohio's largest city, Columbus, passed a strict ordinance.
Are local bar owners oblivious to what's taking place across the country?
Memo to Charleta Tavares, a member of Columbus City Council: Thank you for reminding us, as you pushed for the smoking ban, that if government deferred major decisions to businesses, there wouldn't be any laws against child labor or paying women less than men.
If so much of Toledo's bar business has shifted to the suburbs, you'd think a Taj Mahal-like drinking establishment would have been built in Maumee or Perrysburg by now. Or that existing bars in the suburbs would have installed gold-plated doors.
Could it be that Toledo bar owners are exaggerating their losses in an attempt to gain public sympathy?
Which reminds me of the male bartender at Arnie's Eating & Drinking Saloon who, in a story in Thursday's paper, claimed that he made from $200 to $275 in tips on a weekend night before the ban took effect. (He says he makes $110 to $150 now.)
Two thoughts went through my mind when I read that: 1) Deb, who works at a popular restaurant and is our favorite server because of her strong work ethic, told us a few days earlier that $100 in tips is a good day for her; and 2) I'd like to see how much he reported in tips on last year's income-tax form, just to make sure his figures jibe.
While I am encouraged that Sylvania officials are discussing the possibility of a ban, I can't help but think that they are asking for trouble if they make their ban less restrictive than Toledo's. Trying to appease bar owners will increase the hassle factor; Toledo Mayor Jack Ford learned that the hard way.
So with that in mind, I repeat this Drop from 2003: Andrew Schuman, who spearheaded a successful ballot measure that banned smoking in most public places in Bowling Green, says if he had it to do over again, he would have worded the initiative so that there wouldn't be any exceptions.
Where does the nation's largest cigarette company stand on smoking bans? On its corporate Web site, Philip Morris USA says it believes that "the conclusions of public health officials concerning environmental tobacco smoke are sufficient to warrant measures that regulate smoking in public places."
The way I see it, the petition represents a no-win situation for those who oppose the ban. If initiative makes the ballot in November, it will be soundly rejected. But a more humbling loss would be the failure to gather enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
If only the rebel bar owners realized there's no turning back. Their time would be better spent trying to convince suburban communities to adopt a similar ban, thereby leveling the playing field, than working to modify Toledo's law. Unfortunately, they probably won't realize how much time they've wasted until Ohio adopts a statewide smoking ban.