The Lil’ Chef restaurant in Mount Pleasant hasn’t offered a smoking section for several months — and very soon, smoking won’t be allowed in almost any Michigan business.
“Some of the people were a little sour about it – they kind of took it personally. Most of those clients actually came back. And a lot of the other customers were actually very positive about the change.”
Jamie Martin is the General Manager of Lil’ Chef. In a recent renovation, the entire restaurant became smoke-free. Martin says there were several reasons to do so, including protecting employee and customer health, as well as preventing smoke damage to the building. Martin says he’s seen different clientele because of it.
“More families with children than we would have had before, that didn’t want to bring them into the smoking environment.”
Overall, Martin says it was worth it for Lil’ Chef to go smoke free.
Dave Sprunger is the owner of Smoker’s Club, a tobacco specialty shop in Mount Pleasant.
“I believe it should be up to the individual business owner, whether or not they want to allow smoking in their particular business.”
Customers will still be allowed to smoke in his shop – but he’s seen sales change somewhat with the Michigan’s smoking ban approaching.
“The biggest impact that I see coming to my business is an increased sales of electronic cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in a water vapor. There’s no tobacco, and no fire, and no smoke.”
As part of the law, Sprunger can no longer allow anyone under the age eighteen into his store – so with tongue-in-cheek, he advises customers to leave kids with a trusted adult at a liquor store.
Opponents of the ban have launched efforts to combat it – including a petition to exempt all private clubs.
Meanwhile, supporters plan to celebrate with events like smoke-free pub crawls.
Regardless of your feelings about the ban, enforcement is just around the corner.
“It covers the typical smoking of cigarettes or cigars in a restaurant, bar, or any other establishment,” says James McCurtis, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Under the law, he says, no tobacco product can be smoked in almost any business across the state.
“It apples to private clubs, like VFW halls, bingo halls; it applies to a lot of areas in the state. Smoking will not be allowed on a deck or patio that is connected to a restaurant that is intended to serve food. Even if they decide, you know what, we’re not going to serve food there anymore, we want to just have people out there for smoking. It’s still a part of the restaurant, and it still falls under the umbrella of that facility’s food license.”
In addition, those businesses must also remove smoking paraphernalia – ashtrays and the like – from their premises. McCurtis points out that some businesses are exempt from the ban – including the gaming floors at the three Detroit casinos, for instance, as well as some niche establishments.
“Cigar bars typically sell cigars. People are there to get the flavor, or taste the flavor, of the cigars they are smoking. So they have to apply for an exemption. They have to fill out an affidavit. Similar law or procedure applies for tobacco specialty shops, as well.”
In order to be considered a ‘Cigar bar’ the business must earn ten percent or more of its annual income from the rental of humidor space or the sale of cigars. The cigars each have to retail for more than one dollar. In a recent clarification of the law, the Department of Community Health determined cigar bars will be allowed to serve food and drink.
Tobacco specialty shops must earn at least 75 percent of their annual revenue from the onsite sale of tobacco products and smoking paraphernalia. These specialty shops may also sell a limited amount of prepackaged food, along with drinks from vending machines.
Hookah lounges operate under the definition of a tobacco specialty shop, but establishments cannot serve both food and hookah.
Cigar bars, tobacco specialty shops, and hookah lounges that want to get an exemption under the new smokefree law must have been in existence on or before May first. Home offices are exempt from the law, unless they employ at least one person other than the owner or lessee.
McCurtis points out the law actually takes effect a few hours after the calendar shows May first – so folks may still smoke until bars close in the early morning.
“It’s going to start at six o’clock AM on May the first. So the complaints that happen before then – they will not be valid.”
The Department of Community Health will rely mostly on complaints to enforce the smoking ban.