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Ramsey board OKs smoking ban Jackie Crosby, Star Tribune September 15, 2004 SMOKE0915 The vibe at the Coffee Cup is about to change drastically, and the smokers who frequent the smoking-friendly St. Paul restaurant on Rice Street are none too pleased with their local politicians about it. On Tuesday, the Ramsey County Board unanimously banned smoking in establishments that make more than 50 percent of their sales from food, effective March 31, although it's less restrictive than all-out bans passed in other metro communities. About 1,369 businesses will be affected in Ramsey County, including 850 in St. Paul, where a stricter ban has stalled. "I'll go somewhere else," said Coffee Cup regular Chris Sabio, snuffing out his cigarette and digging into his scrambled eggs and sausage. Sabio, a cabdriver who works the overnight shift, said he comes to the Coffee Cup nearly every day before heading to work. "I like this restaurant, but I might just have to find another place that doesn't have that stupid ban." He might need to go no farther than the Chalet Lounge, about a half-mile up the road in Maplewood. The Chalet serves burgers, soups and sandwiches, but makes most of its money from liquor sales. Come spring, the Chalet could apply for an exemption to the ban and allow people to continue lighting up. But nonsmokers say they're looking forward to smoke-free dining throughout the county. Roseville, Shoreview and White Bear Township will in effect become smoke-free because those communities grant liquor licenses only to restaurants. "I'm all for it," said Marge Langer of St. Paul, as she was leaving Mama's Pizza on Rice Street in St. Paul. "It's going to be great." Tony Mudzinski, owner of Mama's Pizza, is banking on some customers returning. "If all those nonsmokers who've been staying home come back out to eat, then we'll be just fine," he said, acknowledging that it sometimes gets so smoky in the restaurant that he turns on the air conditioner to freshen the air. Ramsey County now joins a growing number of Twin Cities communities to pass smoking restrictions. Bloomington and Minneapolis passed bans this summer that cover bars as well as restaurants. Hennepin hearing Hennepin County held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed smoking ban similar to one passed in Minneapolis. It would prohibit smoking inside restaurants but would exclude private clubs and guest rooms at hotels and motels. For nearly three hours, supporters and opponents offered dueling opinions. "I believe it's a choice issue," said Dale McKenzie, 41, a bartender in Golden Valley. "We should have the power to decide what's best for our business." But McKenzie was countered by, among others, Dr. Michael Belzer, the chief medical officer at the Hennepin County Medical Center. "There is no credible peer-reviewed research" that shows that businesses operating with a smoking ban lose money, he said. McKenzie also said research has shown conclusively that secondhand cigarette smoke is dangerous. "That debate is over," he said. A formal vote on the issue is expected in mid-October. The Dakota County Board voted 5 to 2 last month not to take up the issue, but called on the Legislature to act. In Ramsey County, the board will review its smoking policy in two years and decide then whether to include bars. "It seems to be the beginning point and not the ending point," said Commissioner Sue Haigh, who had favored a comprehensive ban. In St. Paul, Mayor Randy Kelly has vetoed two ordinances passed by the City Council. On Monday he vetoed a ban that would have applied to bars as well as restaurants, and on Tuesday he applauded Ramsey County commissioners for their leadership. Unless the City Council overrides Kelly's veto, which appears unlikely, the city will fall under the county ban by default. Raw feelings? Health-care professionals and those who supported an all-out ban to protect hospitality-industry workers greeted the Ramsey County vote with mixed feelings. Corinne Ertz of the American Cancer Society said she was encouraged that the board took action, but disappointed that bar workers will be left unprotected. "They're the most vulnerable workers, being exposed to as much as four times as much secondhand smoke as restaurant workers," she said. St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune, who has led the fight for an all-out ban, predicted raw feelings among businesses that might lose their smoking customers to bars just across the street. "It'll just kill us," said Mary Wildmo, owner of Glockenspiel, a German restaurant on W. 7th Street that sits directly across the street from Keenan's Bar. "They said it was about protecting public health. Well, make everybody smoke-free then." But some of the regulars who sit at the counter at the Coffee Cup aren't predicting gloom and doom. "Having a cigarette and a cup of coffee is one of my few pleasures in life," said Tom Moore of St. Paul, who works nearby and comes to the Coffee Cup a couple of times a week to do just that. "But I'll keep coming here. I like the people and the atmosphere."

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