Business owners in Sedalia say the city’s smoking ban is having an impact on their businesses. The ban, that went into effect one month ago, bans smoking inside restaurants and bars within city limits – private clubs are exempted from the ban.
At last week’s city council meeting, Sedalia council members heard from local business owners expressing concerns. Michael Gross is general manager at The Endzone Bar and Grill. He said employees are feeling the impact of the ban, which has led to changes in revenue.
“The bartenders’ tips are about in half of what they normally are,” said Gross. “Cooking staff has been cut back, and the waitress… also get sent home early, so they’re not making their full scheduled time there, and they’re only getting half the tips that they used to.”
Gross says he was told his position had become unnecessary and the bar could not afford to pay him when the ban went into effect. He says his last day is Wednesday.
City councilmember Wanda Monsees voted no on the ban in June, and said she is empathetic with the small business owners in her ward.
“I had gone and talked to the bar owners,” said Monsees. “And I didn’t doubt that it was going to hurt their business. And you know certainly I don’t want the city of Sedalia to be in the business of putting people out of business. Especially I know small business struggles so hard anyway.”
Monsees says she isn’t sure that reversing the ban would be worth the city’s time. She said she sees going smoke-free as a national trend with which that all bars and restaurants will eventually need to comply.
“It may give them a year or two to regroup and realize what is coming down the road but I don’t know that we could change what I believe is probably going to happen anyway in the long run,” said Monsees.
But some bar owners say they still feel slighted. Only public bars within city limits are required to comply with the indoor ban, so local private clubs and bars outside city limits have attracted the regular customers of local establishments.
Gross said he thinks the ban should be taken back to public vote, and people should understand that bars come with a local culture. “If you’re going to work in a bar, you ought to expect people drinking, you ought to expect people cussing and you ought to expect people smoking,” he said.