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Readers: Metro Should Ban Smoking at MetroBus Transit Centers Like They Do At MetroLink Light Rail Platforms

Ever since our MetroLink light rail system opened in 1993 it has been treated very differently from the MetroBus system, with the latter being sort of the bastard step-child. Smoking isn’t allowed inside bus or train vehicles but currently smoking isn’t allowed on MetroLink platforms, but is allowed at MetroBus transit centers — those places where many bus lines converge.

Looking east toward Taylor from the CWE MetroLink platform
Looking east toward Taylor from the CWE MetroLink platform. The garage at the left contains a MetroBus center where smoking is allowed but the platform where the photo was taken smoking isn’t allowed.
Many people use the Civic Center MetroBus transit center daily, where smoking is allowed despite the close quarters. 
Many people use the Civic Center MetroBus transit center daily, where smoking is allowed despite the close quarters.

When MetroLink opened in 1993 smoking was allowed on platforms, despite lobbying by light rail advocates to make platforms smoke-free Bi-State (no Metro) President John K. Leary Jr., whose wife smoked, decided to permit smoking. After he left for SEPTA in 1997 the policy was changed.

What justification is there for treating these two differently with respect to smoking? Smokers and non-smokers use both systems, which is why many MetroBus Transit Centers are located adjacent to MetroLink stations.

Here are the results from the Sunday Poll:

Q: Metro allows smoking at MetroBus Transit Centers but not on MetroLink platforms. Metro should:

  1. Ban smoking at both 29 [70.73%]
  2. Unsure/No Opinion 5 [12.2%]
  3. Allow smoking at both 4 [9.76%]
  4. Keep policy as is — smoking allowed at one but not the other 3 [7.32%]

I reluctantly accept the challenge it would be to ban smoking at thousands of bus stops, but enforcing a no-smoking policy at MetroBus Transit Centers is no different than at MetroLink stations. It’s time Metro!!

— Steve Patterson

4th Anniversary of Local Smoking Bans

I can understand that the ‘Good News Friday’ topic for today might be a matter of viewpoint, but it’s my blog and I think it is good news. Four years ago clean air/smoking bans in St. Louis City & County became effective. This has allowed me to visit places that I’d previously considered off-limits, such as:

Smoke-free interior of O'Connell's Pub in July 2013
Smoke-free interior of O’Connell’s Pub in July 2013
Hodak's, May 2014
Smoke-free interior of Hodak’s, May 2014
Milo's on The Hill claimed an exemption for ja little over a month, but went smoke-free on February 7, 2011.
Milo’s Bocce Garden on The Hill initially claimed exemption, but went smoke-free just over a month later. Milo’s is owned by 10th Ward Alderman Joe Vollmer

The St. Louis exemption for small bars will expire in just one year, on Saturday January 2, 2016 establishments that had been granted exemptions to continue allowing smoking will no longer be exempt. Will they be ready or will they be surprised at how quickly five years has passed by? No doubt some will squander the next 12 months but hopefully others are completing patios and such.

Casinos in the city & county, unfortunately, remain exempt. Other Missouri counties in the region aren’t yet smoke-free. The entire state of Illinois is smoke-free, including casinos.

— Steve Patterson

Fast Eddie’s Bon Air Legally Gets Around Illinois’ 2008 Smoking Ban

The last time I visited Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton IL (map), in 1998 or 1099, it was filled with smoke. Yesterday my fiancé and I had lunch there, his first time. Owner Eddie Sholar was a vocal opponent of the Illinois smoking ban that started on January 1, 2008.

Exterior of Fast Eddie's Bon Air in Alton IL
Exterior of Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton IL

In 2006:

Eddie Sholar doesn’t like all this talk about smoking bans. In his Alton bar, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air, about half the customers smoke. But he said they probably won’t quit if the politicians in Springfield enact a statewide ban. They’ll just drink someplace else. “They’re not going to come to a place where they can’t smoke, if other places are allowing it. If you have Missouri, where you can, and Illinois, where you can’t, they’re not going to come some place where they can’t do what they want to do,” Sholar said. The talk in Springfield this week was about a statewide smoking ban, which would replace Illinois’ six-week-old law that lets local governments outlaw smoking on their own. (Daily Chronicle)

Months after the ban started:

At Fast Eddie’s Bon Air in Alton, one of the state’s busiest bars, the owners spent some $800,000 to build an outdoor facility resembling an old-time ballpark. The serving bar sits beneath an overhang. In winter, massive heaters blow warm air on the patrons, many of them smokers.

“I would never credit this stupid smoking law, but it certainly has helped our business,” said Ed Sholar Jr., whose family owns the bar. (Chicago Tribune)

Nearly a million dollars for a patio? Once you see what was built you’ll understand why it cost so much. The street was moved to make room for the outdoor soon. Basically they built a massive addition to the building, the translucent roof is raised enough to make it outdoors — technically. Fans and heaters keep the temperature more hospitable than the parking lot. This design also make it easy to ensure all guests pass through the front door, have proper ID, and are 21 years old. After six years of twice the seating capacity I wonder how they feel about the smoking ban, business is still great but they likely took on debt to fund the outdoor space.

The outdoor area is largely enclosed.
The outdoor area is largely enclosed.
Indoors was nearly full at lunch
Indoors was nearly full at lunch

We sat indoors, but walked through the outdoor room when we left. It was noticeably smokey, despite the efforts to minimize it.  I wouldn’t sit there, but thankfully the inside is smoke-free. UrbanSpoon has 30 reviews and none mention smoking.  Yelp has 125 reviews, 19 mention smoke/smoking, the relevant parts from each:

  1. now that the inside is non-smoking, it’s more crowded outside…and that’s where the real action is
  2. We sat outside (under an awning) but couldn’t smell any smoke b/c of the efficient set-up of fans circulating the air.
  3. It’s smoke free inside, but there’s now a HUGE smoking area outside, complete with giant heaters for the winter months, and another bar.
  4. This place has a lot of history and a lot of character, and it’s much nicer now that smoking in indoor restaurants has been banned in Illinois.
  5. Not a fan at all. The outside is still smoking and with the canopy the smoke [sic] is unbearable. Went here for a friend’s birthday party to listen to his favorite band and I had to leave after an hour the smoke was so bad.
  6. I have only been once in the evening to enjoy the music and it was a great time, but since IL is smoke free now, I am a pretty big fan of Sunday lunches at Fast Eddies.
  7. Yeah it doesn’t look like much inside, but I enjoy all the different areas you can sit inside and the new patio is nice. Well, actually I dont know it anyother way. Sucks that thats where people have to smoke, but if I can eat unhealthy amounts of food and wreck my body in that way, then let people screw their lungs up all they want. Right?
  8. Love this place. Great live bands, cheap cheap CHEAP food and drink. Only bad is all the smoke and sometimes a tad rough crowd. Will always be a fan. Bring cash bc no credit cards are accepted.
  9. The patio was crowded. A large cloud of smoke lingered around the ceiling and it looked like everything was clouded by a haze. We stayed inside but somehow I still smelled like smoke when I left.
  10. I’d say my favorite part is that the inside is smoke free. I love that there’s still a nice outside area, but being able to breathe indoors is always a plus.
  11. Awesome place, bring friends. Can get noisy, so if you don’t like crowds or noise, stay away. No smoking indoors, which is good, but smoking allowed on back covered patio. 2 bars outside, 2 inside.
  12. They have a nice outdoor area, which in the winter is enclosed with a tent but not really heated much… and they seem to be defying IL law by allowing people to smoke in the outdoor area (yes, it’s illegal to allow it outdoors even).
  13. As for the crowd at Eddies, let’s just say it’s ermmm … interesting and eclectic. LOTS of bikers, lots of smokers, and lots of loud types. To call it a rough crowd seems suitable, to me. It’s just not the kind of place most who aren’t into A) smoking, B) drinking of cheap liquor (house drinks are made with the cheapest stuff you can find … Juarez tequila for margaritas (GAG), C) hanging with bikers, or D) eating lower quality food to save yourself a buck.
  14. It’s almost always a good time at Fast Eddie’s. They have the nice outdoor area for people to be able to smoke and watch TV without freezing, live bands all the time, and great prices on good bar food.
  15. Good concept, like the casual atmosphere.  Their covered patio is a neat idea.  The cover band was very good, the food is ok and cheap.  Drinks weren’t too expensive and service was prompt and fun to interact with.  Coming from an area with no inside smoking though, this place was horrible for that.
  16. Cheapest bar food ever.  The fact that it’s now smoke free makes me want to go to this place more and more often, but it’s hard to really justify going all the way out there just for 1$ brats and burgers and their amazing steak on a stick… no wait… it isn’t.
  17. Been to Fast Eddies many times and never been disappointed. Good food, cold beer, low prices. Non smoking inside is great.
  18. Its one step up from a dive bar. Its smoke free inside which makes it better.
  19. I go there because my friends enjoy the place. the outdoor area is covered with a plastic sheet which makes you feel like ur trapped in a glad bag in the hot sun with smokers all around you! not a good feeling or smell for your clothes! the floor outdoors is filthy, people just throw there peel n eat shells from the shrimp on the hot asphalt, like they were peanut shells. talk bout a great smell along with cig smoke! the only thing worth going for is the VERY COLD high priced beer.

Mixed reviews of the outdoor area, but all are happy the indoor space is smoke-free.

Looking outside from inside
Looking outside from inside
Outside we see the wall the encloses the outdoor area.
Outside we see the wall the encloses the outdoor area where a street once existed.

The outdoor area is a smokey area, likely damaging to the servers who work there. However, the smoke-free interior allows those servers who’re concerned about second-hand smoke to continue working without having to take health risks. Customers can experience Fast Eddie’s without having to pass through the smokey outdoor area.

Compromises are just that.

— Steve Patterson

 

Three Years (Mostly) Smoke-Free in St. Louis City & County

Cat's Meow
Cat’s Meow in Soulard is an exempt bar for 2 more years

Three years ago today smoking bans took affect effect in St. Louis and St. Louis County, making all restaurants and most bars smoke-free. In both city & county, small bars were exempted. In the city, the exemption expires after five years.

Are the exempt businesses preparing for two years from today when they’ll be smoke-free as well? Hopefully they’ve used the last three years to build a patio, or plans are in the works for the next two years.

The opponents of the ban were correct, I’ve been annoyed by the number of smokers outside of some businesses. But I try to pass quickly or take a different route — much better than others having to inhale second-hand smoke indoors.

A year into the bans St. Louis magazine did a story on the impact, see Of Smoking Butts and Chapped Booties: Smoking Ban Delights Some Restaurateurs, Enrages Others. In short, some said business was better, others not so much.

I know I’m happy, I go out more often. I don’t spend time trying to decide where to find a smoke-free restaurant to meet friends for dinner. We still spend time debating location & menu though.  I’ve not seen any studies on the St. Louis market to see what impact, if any, the bans have had.

I’d like to see casinos become smoke-free, I had to go through the Lumiere Link a couple of months ago and it was awful passing by the casino area. I’m also tired of hotels having smoking and non-smoking rooms. The Chicago hotel I want to stay at next month only has a disabled room with roll-in shower in smoking. I’d rather not shower than try to sleep in a smoking room.

— Steve Patterson

One Year Smoke-Free

The predictions of a few were dire a year ago as St. Louis City & County went mostly smoke-free. What happened? Like every year, some places closed and others opened.

Some places started off claiming they were exempt, posting the required sign to warn potential customers before entering.

ABOVE: Milo's Tavern on the Hill posted the required sign a year ago

I used the above photograph in a post on January 10, 2011 titled Smoking Allowed Here where I questioned the exemption for this establishment. Milo’s is owned by 10th ward alderman Joe Vollmer. Ald Vollmer told me that day, barely a week into the new law, that he and his business partner were considering making Milo’s smoke-free.

ABOVE: Milo's went smoke-free on February 7, 2011 (click for website)

I stopped in for lunch last month and confirmed they didn’t close because they went smoke-free nor did they go back to being a smoking establishment.

ABOVE: The sign in the window is now the one required for smoke-free establishments

I received the following message from owner Ald Joe Vollmer:

Overall business is up maybe 3 to 5 percent. We are seeing new faces and we are missing some of the old ones. The majority response is highly positive. We have embraced the change, and will always do whatever we can to make Milos a great experience.

I’m told other establishments weren’t so fortunate, non-smokers didn’t replace the lost smokers. Others said smokers wouldn’t buy much but sit for hours…smoking.

The Royale on Kingshighway went smoke-free in 2008, I asked owner Steve Smith if he noticed a drop in business once more bars were smoke-free:

Honestly I saw no real difference. We have had our strongest sales year to date, but we have gained consistently every year since we opened nearly seven years ago. We saw a bit of a bump when we went smoke free. We were smoking from the spring of 05 to the spring of 08. People certainly still smoke here, but they now just step outside. It has been seamless if even unremarkable. There is no more noise.

People’s mindsets for the most part have changed. It has been two years since I even posted a sign that we are smoke free anywhere in the place. It is expected now to be smoke free, and most ask the doorman before entering if they can smoke out back. We have had only a handful of instances when we started the policy in which someone unwittingly lit up indoors. Now people are just expecting to step outside to smoke.

I talked to MokaBe’s owner Mo Costello last week, she was glad they were forced to go smoke-free a year ago. To Costello the construction on Grand, the closed Grand viaduct and the economy have been bigger issues for her

Many places built nice outdoor patios in 2011 to accommodate smokers. The very smokey Riley’s Pub on Arsenal is in the middle of improving the space in front of their business.

ABOVE: Riley's Pub at Arsenal & Arkansas Ave on 12/26/2011

I have no idea what their plans are once this work is completed. I talked to friends that live within walking distance and they no longer patronize Riley’s because they now have so many smoke-free options. Hopefully they will opt to go smoke-free before the exemption expires. I found no mention of a patio on Riley’s Facebook page.

The last day of the exemption is New Year’s Day 2016, four more years to adjust and become smoke-free on 1/2/2016. I’m sure a few will cry fowl and say they didn’t  have time to prepare, to build patio space for their smoking customers. By then hopefully some places have smoke-free outdoor spaces as well, nothing ruins a meal like cigarette smoke.

– Steve Patterson

YOUR SUPPORT IS GREATLY APPRECIATED

SUNDAY POLL (8AM-8PM SUNDAYS)


The Sunday Poll is now within the body of the post.

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