November 19, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 45  

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Bar say smoking bylaw hurts

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Local London smokers may be annoyed by recent bylaws banning smoking in public places, but some London businesses, particularly downtown bars, are more than just annoyed — they’re losing money.

The bylaw banning smoking inside London bars came into effect July 1, 2003, said Jim Reffle, director of environmental health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. There have been smoking bylaws in place since 1994, he said, adding the amount of space in public places for smoking has been reduced over the years.

“The Health Unit is the enforcement unit [for this bylaw] in London and [the] Middlesex community,” Reffle said, noting the Health Unit’s staff does inspections and responds to complaints related to the bylaw.

“The bylaw has affected my business very much,” said Chris Georgopolous, owner of the Ridout Tavern. “We’re not only a bar, we serve food during the day as well — we used to have 50 to 100 customers every day for lunch and we now have about 25 to 30.”

Night business has been affected as well, Georgopolous said. Customers are forced out to the patio to smoke and while this is all right in the warmer months, it is a problem in the winter, he said, explaining an attempt was made to maintain a fully-enclosed heated patio last year, but it was simply too expensive and the patio will be closed this winter.

“The majority of our customers were smokers,” said Melissa Millet, assistant manager of Kokopelli’s. “We had to lay off one-third of our serving staff, lower our drink prices and go from a full menu to just appetizers.

“We don’t have a patio so there is a constant flow in and out,” Millet said, adding it is not possible to add a patio because of Kokopelli’s downtown location.

Ray Luft, Kokopelli’s owner, said revenues are about 40 per cent lower than last year at this time. “Liquor sales have gone down by 30 per cent [but] draft beer prices have gone down 90 per cent — the crowd we lost was the pub crowd, not the late night crowd.

“The daytime and early evening crowd is gone altogether,” Luft said. “Any good [the City of London] did spending money on the downtown was undone in the past six months.” Luft said he is considering selling the bar if an appropriate local buyer arises.

Dan Smith, manager of on campus bars The Spoke and The Wave, said he feels the smoking bylaws are unfair. “The bylaws give certain [bars] advantages over others,” he said, explaining some are not able to add patios.

“We’ve had other [bars] saying they’re busier — people want to go to places with no smoking,” Reffle said.



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