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Readers Weigh In On Clayton’s Outdoor Smoking Ban

September 15, 2010 Smoke Free, St. Louis County 6 Comments

ABOVE: Cigarette butts litter the ground in St. Louis' Aloe Plaza across the street
ABOVE: Cigarette butts litter the ground in St. Louis' Aloe Plaza across the street from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield

In the poll last week readers supported Clayton’s effort to ensure park visitors in their city parks can breathe fresh air:

Q: Effective January 2011 smoking in city parks will not be allowed in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton. Reaction:

  1. Good 65 [58.56%]
  2. Indifferent 23 [20.72%]
  3. Bad 19 [17.12%]
  4. Other answer… 4 [3.6%]

The four other answers were:

  1. not good but GREAT
  2. good idea, nearly impossible to enforce
  3. Bizarre; though I understand the litter issue.
  4. BULLSHIT- GOV. tell people what they can and can’t

I’m pleased to see such measures.

– Steve Patterson


Driving Next Door For Dinner

Friday September 3rd I stayed the night in Joplin MO. Next door to the hotel was a Fazoli’s (map).

ABOVE: View of Fazoli's from my car in the hotel parking lot.
ABOVE: View of Fazoli's from my car in the hotel parking lot.

The distance from the hotel to the restaurant is not far, even for me. It was a nice day and a walk after 4+ hours of driving would have been nice.  But walking through auto drives, over numerous curbs and through grass was not an obstacle course I wanted to deal with when I was tired.

You know I get that everyone visiting this highway adjacent section of Joplin will be arriving by car as I did.  That doesn’t mean that once there we should be forced to use our car to visit adjacent businesses.

Since I was getting in my car to go to dinner I thought I’d go someplace nicer, it would cost more but I was on vacation.  I crossed I-44 to the North and arrived at the Olive Garden. I prefer local places, but I didn’t want to take the time to look.  I walked in the door of the Olive Garden where I was greeted with a question I hadn’t heard in a long time; “Do you have a smoking preference?” I was suddenly reminded I live in a backwards state. I politely informed them I wanted a nice meal which, by my definition, doesn’t include smoke. I turned around and left.  I drove back to the area where my hotel was but I pulled into the Fazoli’s next door.

ABOVE: View of my blue Toyota and the hotel in the background
ABOVE: View of my blue Toyota Corolla and the hotel in the background

A couple of points about the above picture.  First, us disabled folks don’t always get the best parking spots.  There was an empty spot next to the white car, right in front of the door.  Where I parked wasn’t the closest space, but it was the best for me. The loading zone allows me to open my driver’s door fully to make exit & entry possible.  Second the lack of a curb reduces the chances of a fall. So while us disabled folks may get parking nearest the entrance, we often do not.  The SUV, above, is also parked in a disabled spot. Had both spaces been empty I still would have taken the farther spot because of the access on the driver’s side. If the other space had been the only one free I would have backed into the space.  OK, back to the lack of walkability of this area.

To have the walk next to the Fazoli’s run south to the property line to meet a walk from the hotel would have been easy to do if someone had given it any thought.  More importantly if Joplin had required the developer of this area to plan for walkability between parcels.

ABOVE: Couple staying at same hotel walk to Fazoli's
ABOVE: Couple staying at same hotel walk to Fazoli's

After I finished my dinner I noticed a couple walking to Fazoli’s.  You might look at this and say my idea of a walkable sidewalk to connect the two establishments is unnecessary.  But a test of good walkability is if a parent can push a baby stroller or a person can wheel in a wheelchair.  Neither is possible here.

ABOVE: Aerial view of area with the Fazoli's & Microtel on the right
ABOVE: Aerial view of area with the Fazoli's & Microtel on the right. Image: Google Streetview

What about guests at the hotel on the left? Or employees & clients of the Social Security Administration in the lower left corner?

The days of many square miles of cities being connected by a fine grid of roads, sidewalks and transit are long gone.  People will arrive here by car but they should have the option to walk within the immediate vicinity if they want.  We should be designing pockets of areas that are walkable within their area.

– Steve Patterson


St. Louis’ first ban on smoke

On April 8th St. Louis took action to get rid of damaging smoke.  The year was 1940 and the smoke was from coal fired furnaces. The problem had been building for years.  Time magazine explains:

The burly head of Bernard Francis (“Barney”) Dickmann, the enterprising bachelor realtor who is St. Louis’ mayor until at least April 6 (municipal election day), last week literally was in a smoky fog, and had been there for many winter weeks. The murk over St. Louis has been so thick that the new Governor of Missouri, Lloyd Crow Stark, an enterprising nurseryman, could not see the city streets when he flew over during an inspection of the Ohio-Mississippi flood. He wished that Mayor Dickmann would sign a pending city ordinance to abate the smoke which makes St. Louis grimier than notorious Pittsburgh.   (Medicine: St. Louis Smoke Monday, Feb. 22, 1937)

Dickmann was reelected as Mayor but it would be another three years before he’d get a bill from the Board of Aldermen to sign into law.

During Mayor Dickmann’s administration, the city also enacted a Smoke Ordinance, and took steps to reduce the air pollution created by the extensive use of coal for home heating and industrial use in the city. (Wikipedia: Dickman)

A key figure in banning smoke was future mayor Tucker:

Tucker served in Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann’s administration from 1934 to 1937, during which time he served as City Smoke Commissioner. From 1939 to 1941, he was secretary to Mayor Dickmann’s Survey and Audit Committee which sponsored the Griffenhagen Report on St. Louis City Government. In part of 1940 and 1941, he was Director of Public Safety. (Wikipedia: Tucker)

Can you imagine smoke so bad you had to use lanterns to see during the day? It took years to ban the cause of the smoke because many fought the change.  Today, 70 years later, I’m so glad they got it done despite those who objected.

– Steve Patterson


Local restaurants getting head start on competition, going smoke-free before required by new laws

January 30, 2010 Smoke Free, STL Region 26 Comments

Some food & drink establishments are holding out until the very last minute, January 2, 2011, to go smoke-free.  In the City of St. Louis non-food bars under a certain size have until January 2, 2016.   Smart money, however, is on local establishments that are going smoke-free prior to the start dates of the smoke-free laws in St. Louis City & County.  By doing so they will have time to attract a non-smoking clientele before other places go smoke-free.

Two such recently smoke-free places are:

ABOVE: Hodaks Restaurant is now smoke-free
ABOVE: Hodak's Restaurant is now smoke-free

A year from now all food establishments in the city & county will be smoke-free.   Addicted chain smokers will likely resort to the drive-thru because not smoking for a meal is just too difficult for them.  Non-smokers will likely stick to places they always go to while trying out a few newly smoke-free establishments.

Recently Mangia Italiano on South Grand put out an online  survey to get a sense if they too should go smoke-free prior to before required to by law.  The response must have been very positive because on Wednesday (Jan/27) they will be smoke-free starting March 1st:

IMPORTANT NEWS: We are proud to announce that our restaurant will go Smoke Free on March 1! Thanks to all of our fans for your comments!”

If you own or manage an establishment that allows smoking understand that by waiting until the last minute to go smoke-free you may well have a hard time finding new customers.

– Steve Patterson


Smoking ban can’t come soon enough for one St. Louis family

I often get emails from people wanting me to bring attention a problem/dispute they are having.    Such was the case on November 7th:

I live in the Jack Thompson Lofts on the top floor above Club Lure. I live with my girlfriend and her [9 year-old] daughter and the smoke from the bar engulfs us every weekend. The condo assc. meet with the bar a couple of times and request smoke eaters. They agree to install them months ago but it never happened. Now they just ignore us.

“Engulfs?”Many people tend to exaggerate or twist facts to get the media on their side.  I ended up emailing with both of them, learning more about their situation.  I emailed some smoke-free friends that suggested they look here and here (pdf) for help.  I was interested in sharing their story and I could have shared it just based on their accounts.From their descriptions I could tell their situation was real and they were not just playing me.  But I knew it was best if I visited them in person to see for myself.  Before I get to my visit let me explain the building.

The Jack Thompson Square building is located at the Southwest corner of Tucker & Washington Ave (map).

Washington Ave facade of the Jack Thompson Square building
Washington Ave facade of the Jack Thompson Square building

The ground floor is Lure Nightclub.  Floors 2-4 are offices, mostly for Kwame Building Group, the developer of the building.  You may recognize the name Kwame — they were part of the Cross County Collaborative that won a lawsuit with Metro over the extension of our MetroLink system.  The club and the offices share the Washington Ave entrance.

The 5th floor contains four condos while the 6th floor has four 2-story units.  The 8 residential condos have a separate entrance at the rear of the building facing narrow St. Charles St.

entrance to Jack Thompson lofts
entrance to Jack Thompson lofts

That first weekend we couldn’t find a time to meet.  The problem, they explained, was worst between 1am and 8am.  I knew I’d need to alter my schedule to verify their claim.

So last Friday night I went to their condo located at Tucker & Washington Ave at 1am (technically Saturday morning).  I had never been in the residential part of this building.  Like most, the lobby contains a mail center and an elevator.  But this resident lobby contained something I’ve seen in no other: massive amounts of cigarette smoke.

Jack Thompson Lofts lobby
Jack Thompson Lofts lobby

This is basically the size of the lobby.  The elevator is to the left and the mailboxes are just beyond that.  Behind me to the right is a door to a hallway which leads to the back emergency exit for Lure Nightclub.

Typically in these buildings the commercial spaces are kept separate from the resident spaces.  However, it is common to permit emergency egress through an otherwise resident-only space.  The club’s exit door is at the end on the left in the above image.

We took the elevator up to the top — the 6th floor.  I was so bothered by the lobby smoke their hall seemed refreshing.  We peaked into the emergency staircase.

The stair leads up to the roof.  The bedrooms/bathrooms for the four 6th floor units are located on the 7th floor.  A former opening from the stairwell is adjacent to her daughter’s bathroom.  Each Friday & Saturday night the smoke makes its way up the stairwell forcing them to run the exhaust fan in her bathroom.

This couple’s unit is in the middle of the floor.  They said the neighbor with the entrance opposite the elevator (above) gets smoke through the elevator shaft.

From the shared hall I could see the intersection of Tucker (12th) and Washington Ave.

Their loft was very nice.  I didn’t even attempt the spiral stair but we talked for about 15 minutes.  Their windows which face West were closed but I could hear the music from the club below — we are on the 6th floor!

Heading back down the hall to the elevator I could now smell the smoke on their floor. Coming off the elevator into the lobby I was again confronted by the visible smoke.  Just then a young man exited the club into the resident lobby to talk on his phone.  I can’t imagine putting up with 1) this smoke and 2) having strangers in what should be secured space.

I emailed both Lure and Kwame Sunday morning requesting a response to the claim they are ignoring requests from loft owner’s to remedy the situation.  This couple and her daughter moved in a year ago after she bought the condo.   Their first night in  their new home a fight broke out in the club that spilled out into their lobby.  I’vc never been to Lure but here is how they describe themselves:

Located in the heart of downtown, Lure nightclub is one of the most popular places in Saint Louis. Lure nightclub has become the place where the “A” list crowd goes to unwind, to dance, or just have a drink. Every night Lure attracts beautiful crowds by the sweet smell of sophistication, class and style. The beauty of this magnificent ultra lounge is supplemented by the house groves, European bottle service and party people. This chic ultra lounge keeps finger on the pulse of socialite demands with modern decor, sexy lighting, and DJs spinning the best in hip hop, top 40 and house.

As of January 2, 2011 Lure will be smoke-free but that is more than 13 months away.  When the weather is warm the problem is not as bad because the club runs the air conditioning system.  The couple tried a petition to revoke the club’s liquor license but they couldn’t even sign it themselves:

The Excise Division has a procedure wherein the property owners, registered voters and business owners within a 350 feet circular radius of the proposed premises can protest the issuance, renewal or continuation of a liquor license and seek administrative review.

Apparently the Excise Division has an unwritten rule limiting protesters to the first few floors of a building.  Second floor residents of The Meridian building across Tucker can protest Lure’s license but none of the residents in the same structure can.  That just doesn’t seem right.

Lure needs to contain the smoke within it’s space.  The developer of the building,  which owns the space Lure leases, needs to correct any deficiencies that allow the smoke from one space to enter another.  The emergency exit at Lure needs a panic alarm so the door is used only in actual emergency situations.  Club patrons should not have access to the resident portion of the building unless they are exiting the club in a true emergency.

Hopefully these parties can resolve this awful situation prior to the start of the indoor smoke-free law on January 2, 2011.

Addendum: as I wrote this piece over the weekend I sent out many emails.  Monday morning at 9:15am I got a call from Kwame’s President/CEO Tony Thompson.  He indicated he was unaware of the problem and would get his building management staff on the issue right away.  But within the last year the condo association met with Lure’s manager and Tony’s brother Ty. We’ll see, hopefully a resolution is coming soon.

I also learned that 7th Ward Alderman Phyllis Young introduced BB240 on 11/13/09 that would revise the city’s excise ordinance. Language in this bill would still mean these residents have no say:

No portion of a building shall be considered to be within the petition circle other than the main or surface floor of such building, the two floors immediately above the main or surface floor, and the floor immediately below the main or surface floor.

That is fine for adjacent buildings within the 350ft radius, but not for the subject building.

UPDATE: 11/17/09 @ 12:15pm – I just received a phone call from Lure’s manager, Tony Tribiani. He said he and Kwame’s Ty Thompson have met with the association he says he can’t afford the equipment to eat the smoke.  He says the couple shouldn’t have bought a condo located over a nightclub.  Furthermore, what I saw, smelled and coughed on was not smoke — it was fog created by hazers that weekend.  Yeah right I can tell the difference between fog and cigarette smoke..

– Steve Patterson