Kirkwood residents who think Citizens for a Smoke-Free Kirkwood’s proposed smoking ban will have no lasting economic effect better think again.
Restaurants in Ballwin, which in January banned smoking in public places, are suffering adverse economic effects, a survey by the chair of the Kirkwood Special Business District board has concluded.David McArthur, chairman of the Kirkwood Junction Special Business District Advisory Commission, said he visited seven restaurants along Manchester Road March 30 and conducted an impartial survey.
“Six of the seven reported losses in the bar of 35 to 50 percent,” McArthur told the Kirkwood City Council April 6. “The one exception, Mi Lupita, is a small restaurant with a six-seat bar area that likes the ban because it increased his non-smoking seating table capacity by five tables in the bar area. Restaurants like Longhorn Steakhouse reported bar losses of over 50 percent. No increase in restaurant sales and they now close an hour earlier every day. Also, one bar and two restaurants have closed since the ban.”
State and county-wide bans are bad enough, as they interfere with the right of a business owner to decide what legal activities are permissible on his property. Local bans like the one proposed for Kirkwood are just economic suicide, as smokers will just choose to go to a neighboring community that values freedom more highly. And it’s not like non-smokers are deprived of smoke-free environments - 16 of the 25 restaurants in the Kirkwood SBD are already smoke-free.
A city should like Kirkwood should be especially careful when considering business-killing ordinances. Kirkwood relies heavily on sales and gross receipts taxes; the General Fund receives no revenue from property taxes. In 2005, Kirkwood took in $4.1 million in sales tax revenue and $3.2 million in utility gross receipts tax revenue. General Fund expenditures were $15.9 million. Any business lost to the smoking ban would have a serious impact on sales and utility gross receipts tax revenue, and the Mayor is relying on an increase in the sales tax rate to fund some of his proposed $2 million in new spending.