Niagara Gazette

Columns

August 14, 2013

DELUCA: Smoking ban burns bars

Niagara Gazette — "Sometimes you want to go 

Where everybody knows your name,

and they're always glad you came."

— Theme song for "Cheers"

 

I walked into Judi's Lounge the other day and felt just like I had entered into an episode of that old TV show "Cheers."

It was a late August afternoon in the Military Road tavern near the outlet mall and two Canadian ladies had just finished lunch. Somebody shouted "Happy Shopping," as they walked out the door. Around the edge of the bar, a small group of regulars were enjoying each other's company. 

I had stopped in to talk to owner Judi Justiana about the 10-year anniversary of the state's Clean Air Act. She told me the ban completely changed things for local neighborhood bars. And a lot of the regulars that kept her bar busy until late into the evenings 10 years ago have disappeared. 

Things change. She knows that. But, as the leader of a band of area bar owners and others, who loudly protested against the state's Clean Air Act a decade ago, she's still a bit ticked off about the trampling on her freedom as a business owner. 

"I wasn't fighting whether smoking is good for you or not," she said. "It's my business. I'm the one working so hard and I didn't want the legislature or the government coming in and telling me who I can and cannot serve."

The state appears to be deeply intent on keeping the public safe — raising the drinking age, lowering allowable blood-alcohol levels and raising penalties for drunken driving. 

And she knows all of that is a good thing for a culture. It just makes it near impossible to run a bar business. 

Anyone who's ever sat on a bar stool, enjoying the company of a few friends while indulging in a cold drink, can likely understand how the law dealt a blow to a beloved American tradition. In a country where too many people smoke and drink to an excess, and too many lives are destroyed by addictions, it's easy to agree that the law is a good thing. But, for bar owners, it was not. 

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