Hours to go: Washtenaw County bars brace for Michigan smoking ban that starts at 6 a.m. Saturday
The clock is ticking for smokers who want to light a cigarette in one of Michigan’s bars, restaurants and most other public spaces.
Michigan's Smoke-Free Air Law takes effect at 6 a.m. Saturday.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
The county estimates at least 300 bars and restaurants will be making the switch to smoke-free. Statewide, the ban also affects most Michigan workspaces. Casinos are a notable exception.
Health advocates welcome the approaching deadline, while many business owners are left wondering what the switch will mean for their sales.
Some aspects of the change are pretty obvious.
“We wash ashtrays every night. Tonight we’ll put them in a box,” said Brian Brickley, co-owner of the Tap Room in downtown Ypsilanti.
Brickley said he’s talked to some regular customers who are saying they’ll just have to adapt to the change. He’s hoping they’ll outnumber the customers who decide to stay home - where they can still light up.
But Karen Watts, manager at Banfield’s Bar and Grill on Packard Road in Ann Arbor, said the transition will be tough on her regular customers and her employees, most of whom smoke.
“I really do think it’s going to hurt our business,” she said.
Her customers who smoke have been complaining about the law, Watts said Friday. But she’s also fielded complaints about the state’s decision from non-smoking customers, too.
“They’re also upset about it,” she said, because they don’t want government making that choice for people.
“They say, ‘When we walk in this bar, we’re aware there will be smoke, and we make that choice to walk in.’”
The Arena Sports Bar in downtown Ann Arbor is making transition to a smoke-free bar an event: Dubbed “Smokefest,” the bar will offer $1 drafts after 9 p.m. Friday until close.
“After 9, about 80 percent of the people who come in here are smokers,” said Mike Flore. “ We have a large group of regulars that do smoke. I don’t think they’ll be happy about (the ban) come Saturday.”
Despite that, Flore is hopeful that business gets better once the bar goes smoke-free. Meanwhile, at Aubree’s Saloon in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town, the staff is turning the deadline into a commemorative event.
Aubree’s ashtrays will be handed out to customers at the end of the night, and each of the 50 or so ashtrays will be marked with a raffle number.
The winner gets a Zippo lighter with an engraved Aubree’s logo, said manager Sean McShane.
Customers at Aubree’s will still be able to find a welcoming area to smoke, McShane said. It’s just not inside the bar.
Benches and smokeless ashtrays have been set up across the street at Celebrations, which is also owned by Aubree’s owners Bill and Sandy French.
“We’re going to build an awning for it,” McShane said. “We still want people to feel comfortable.”
Still, like other bar owners, McShane and his coworkers have been posting signs and educating staff so that customers easily learn the new rules.
Brickley described his attitude as cautiously optimistic that smoking customers will adapts to the new regulations - and that nonsmokers will increase their patronage of businesses that once allowed smoking.
“Tomorrow will be an interesting day,” Brickley said.