While smokers in restaurants throughout Connecticut will see new “No Smoking” signs today, patrons in taverns, cafes and bowling alleys will not have to put out their butts until April 1, 2004.
A statewide smoking ban that goes into effect today prohibits smoking in any restaurant or bar that serves alcohol. Most restaurant owners said the effect of the law was uncertain but they thought any problems would be fairly minimal.
“I think it’s sort of ridiculous to have a smoking ban in a place where you’re wrecking your liver,” Richter’s Bar owner Dieter Von Rabenstein said.
State Sen. Toni Harp, a New Haven Democrat and proponent of the bill in the state legislature, said the major goal of the legislation was to reduce the amount of secondhand smoke that workers at restaurants must endure while working their shifts.
“We’ve determined [secondhand smoke] to be presenting as negative a health impact as actually smoking,” Harp said.
Harp said the restaurant association had blocked the bill in the past but agreed not to do so this year if they received more time for certain businesses to comply with the law.
Von Rabenstein said Richter’s is legally classified as a cafe (and not a restaurant or bar), so it will not be affected by the ban until April. He said Richter’s may actually benefit from the ban until that point, since smokers will have to find somewhere else to go when their favorite restaurants turn them away.
While he said he might take an initial hit in business once the law takes affect, Von Rabenstein said he thinks the bill may be repealed.
“I just don’t think it will really wash around here,” Von Rabenstein said. “The state’s got bigger problems than who’s smoking in bars.”
The bill also bans smoking in dorm rooms at private universities. Yale University Fire Marshall Michael Johns said the University shifted its policy on smoking in residential college rooms as a result of the law. Johns said students were allowed to smoke in their rooms in previous years if all of the roommates agreed, but now smoking is not permitted under any circumstances.
Matthew Mandelbaum, the manager of Scoozi Trattoria and Wine Bar, where smoking is banned as of today, said the effect will be fairly minimal. Mandelbaum said the restaurant had already shifted to being entirely nonsmoking on certain nights when the main dining room was filled.
Mandelbaum said smokers could also choose to sit outside when the weather was nice. The new law allows smoking outdoors at restaurants if the smoking area does not have a roof and at least 75 percent of the seats in the outdoor area are nonsmoking.
Director of University Properties David Newton said he did not think the ban would have an adverse effect on the many restaurants that are tenants of University Properties. In the case of Bistro la Mensa — the Italian restaurant set to open behind the Yale Bookstore — Newton said the ban means it will no longer need to have a designated smoking area and the equipment required to contain the smoke in that area.
The manager at AMF Circle Lanes, who asked that her name not be used, said that since the league bowling season runs from September to May and the ban does not affect bowling alleys until April, it is impossible to know how the ban will impact business until next year.
“They may be used to it by then,” the manager said. “All of the bowlers are fully aware it’s a state law and they’ve accepted it.”
But the manager said she did think there would be some decrease in business.