Thursday, Jun 30, 2016
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Ohio smokers make run for border

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    Josh Johnson of Lambertville says he s avoiding Toledo bars.

    <The Blade/Andy Morrison
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Backed by a welcoming sign, Toledoan Dave Easton lights up at the UM-themed Michigan Tavern in Bedford Township. He says he ll go to Michigan to smoke despite being a Buckeye.

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The signs at Michigan Tavern in Bedford Township, where most of the parking lot's vehicles sported Ohio license plates, said it all: "Wanna smoke? Come to Michigan. We'll take your business."

Various bars across the state line from Toledo have had an increase in business since Ohio instituted a smoking ban in most public buildings, especially as officials started enforcing the law this week, employees say.

And Ohioans say they have no choice but to cross the state line, where there is no such ban unless they just want food, a quick drink, or can lounge outside where smoking is allowed at their neighborhood's bars.

For Trilby-area resident Jack King, who uses an Ohio State University lighter, it's just a short drive to the UM-themed Michigan Tavern on Smith Road.

"I see more people who go to the bar for half an hour in Toledo and then come up here," he said. "They don't like going outside to smoke."

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Josh Johnson of Lambertville says he s avoiding Toledo bars.

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Added Toledoan Dave Easton: "I'm a Buckeye and I hate [the University of] Michigan, but I will come to Michigan."

Not all smoking in public buildings has ended in Ohio despite the ban, which many bar owners maintain will drive business elsewhere.

By late afternoon yesterday, the Ohio Department of Health had received 433 complaints about smoking in public places since 12:01 a.m. Thursday when enforcement began.

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Louis Heberger of Sylvania, found Quimby s smoker-friendly.

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The Toledo-Lucas County health department by midafternoon had received a dozen complaints against businesses not complying with the ban, all at different locations throughout the county, said Larry Vasko, deputy health commissioner, who declined to name establishments until they are notified.

"There have been no reports of multiple complaints," he said. "But I'm sure we will."

Businesses statewide will get a warning for the first violation, followed by fines ranging from $100 to $2,500 depending on the number of incidents. Individuals, though, get a warning letter for their first violation and are fined $100 for each subsequent incident.

Louis Heberger, of Sylvania, started frequenting Quimby's Food and Spirits on Sterns Road in Bedford Township a couple weeks ago as talk of the smoking ban's enforcement started heating up.

"What are you going to do?" he asked. "I go to the Elks over there, and now I can't smoke there, either."

Quimby's hasn't picked up as much business as expected, but the establishment with separate smoking and nonsmoking sections has been home to some Ohio customers since the smoking ban went into effect Dec. 7, said Bill Clark, executive chef and general manager.

"I have noticed a bit of an increase," Mr. Clark said. "I have gotten a little bit more traffic."

The upswing in business after Ohio's smoking ban went into effect last year eventually died down at MT Loonies in Bedford Township, but it appears to be coming back this week, said Page Bernath, manager of the Lewis Avenue bar.

Still, employees at Rivalry's in Bedford Township and Sidelines Sports Eatery & Pub in Lambertville said yesterday they haven't yet seen an increase due to Ohio's smoking ban.

Headlights in Erie Township has been busier lately, but it could be attributed to the warmer weather, an employee said.

Toledo-area bar owners, meanwhile, are not just losing customers from the Buckeye State.

Josh Johnson, of Bedford Township, has stopped playing in a pool league at Miss Cue Billiards & Darts off Alexis Road and is now at MT Loonies.

And he won't be hitting Toledo bars like he once did, either, he said.

His drinking partner yesterday at Ranch House Lounge, Toledoan Jeff Bach, said he won't be going to Ohio bars as much, either.

"Beer and cigarettes - they just go together," he said.

Carol Gotha, bartender at the Bedford Township bar on Lewis Avenue, said her beer sales have nearly doubled the last couple of weeks as Ohio smokers find places to hang out. Ranch House is going to install a patio, too, she said.

"There's not going to be enough room in here shortly," Ms. Gotha said.

Staff writer Meghan Gilbert contributed to this report.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.

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