Receipts are down and some bars have laid off staff.
“Unfortunately, everything we predicted and worse has happened,” said Ciaran Staunton of O’Neill’s Bar on Third Avenue, who said that since the ban took effect he has had to lay off three staff members.
The popular eastside bar has seen happy hour from 5-7 p.m. almost disappear, while at Clancy’s bar on Second Avenue, owner Red Davis said “happy hour has gone.”
Complicating the immediate impact of the ban has been the month’s “easement” permitted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, where no fines will be given out until after April 30, when, according to the mayor, customers and staff will have become accustomed to the ban.
Some bars, like Clancy’s, went ahead with the ban from March 30, Davis explained. Other bars have taken advantage of the extra month to still permit smokers to light up.
“Other bars are not applying the law,” he said. Business has gravitated toward those bars, and owners like Davis have been left with lighter pockets and the hope that after April 30, the playing field will even out once more.
“It’s sucky, terrible,” he said, when asked about business. “Absolutely desperate.”
Asked if he too had had to lay off staff, Davis said, “Not yet, but it’s getting close.”
“Some bars are completely wiped out,” Staunton said. “They are being hammered in Queens.
The uneven application of the smoking ban has had an impact on the border areas of the Bronx, where, until a statewide ban signed by Gov. George Pataki takes effect later in the year, bar patrons can walk a few yards across the border into Westchester County, and smoke in the bars along McLean Avenue. A similar effect has been noted in border areas of Queens.
Bar staff in several Katonah Avenue bars in Woodlawn refused to answer questions about business and the ban. But smoking patrons confirmed that when faced with the choice between going outside for a smoke or buying their drinks in bars that still allowed them to smoke, they chose the latter, apparently contradicting Mayor Bloomberg’s assertion that when patrons were no longer holding a cigarette, they would drink more.
“I have met some of my former customers going home with a six pack of beer,” said Staunton, and some smokers across the city have said that since the ban they prefer to drink at home where they can smoke in peace.
“People are attacking the mayor, but I see few people going after their council members,” Staunton added, noting that most council members had voted for the ban, including some who had given verbal commitments to vote against it.
On Thursday, May 2, at 7 p.m. New York Assemblyman Jonathan Bing will hold a public meeting at the Sutton Place Synagogue to determine the effect of the smoking ban on East Side bars, businesses and residents. The synagogue is at 225 East 51st St.
In Ottawa, Ontario, an aggressive campaign against that city’s smoking ban continues to chronicle the effects of the ban on bars and pubs since the ban became law in 2001. According to Barry McKay of the Pub and Bar Coaltion of Canada (PUBCO), 64 bars have closed and only 13 new bars have opened.