The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 14, 2014

Our View: No longer waiting

— Of all the businesses that would have a financial stake in whether to allow smoking, bars make the most convincing case. Because the business is based on relaxing and blowing off steam, bars — much more so than restaurants — make a pretty compelling point about losing business under a smoking ban.

That’s why we’re surprised and proud that Joplin’s latest wave of non-smoking support takes root in two downtown bars.

Recently, three restaurants/bars have kicked the habit. Club 609 decided to give up smoking for Lent, and the Kitchen Pass got tired of waiting for the city to pass a ban and took the leap itself. While those places have food and drinks available and are popular spots in Joplin’s nightlife, Granny Shaffer’s was one of the few restaurants to still allow smoking, until it ended smoking this month.

Smoking was a big part of each of these restaurant’s identity, so making the decision to ditch cigarettes took courage and attention to customers. But this trail was blazed by two bars in downtown Joplin:

• About four years ago, JB’s Piano Bar instituted a smoke-free policy from the start. The bar is now a Joplin fixture, with spinoff businesses such as a martini lounge.

• Blackthorn Pizza and Pub in 2012 held a few smoke-free concerts, and the success of those convinced owners to go smoke-free later that year. Business at the nightspot shows no signs of letting up — the bar continues to host the same diversity of bands and customers.

Bars and cigarettes are linked in more than customers’ eyes — some smoking laws across the country specifically exempt bars from a ban. Yet those two bars went against the trend, because they believed it’s what customers wanted.

And that was at a time when the area’s governments seemed to suggest a ban would be unpopular. The Joplin City Council in 2010 mangled the details of a smoking ordinance to the point where even the original supporter, Smoke-Free Joplin, could no longer support it. And even in the face of a vote in favor of a ban, the Webb City City Council couldn’t bring itself to carry out the will of voters and refused to pass a smoking ban.

Running a restaurant is hard work, and making a decision that could alienate part of a customer base would keep a restaurant owner up all night worrying about the ramifications. That’s why we could see where a ban would help restaurants keep customers — a law makes a great scapegoat for an unpopular decision.

But these five businesses didn’t wait for such a mandate. They made the mandate themselves, courageously. We applaud them for listening to customers and making a decision that positively affects people’s health.

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