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How to Support Local Businesses in Springfield

Note June 4, 2012: The post below was sparked by the April 5, 2011 vote which passed and brought a city-wide smoking ban into effect in Springfield, Missouri. We will be voting again tomorrow to decide whether or not the original ban was too strict, so I thought I’d share this post again with an added paragraph at the bottom. Be sure to read the comments!

Tomorrow, Springfield voters will decide whether or not to allow smoking in all indoor public places. I will be voting against the smoking ban, and you should too. Here’s why.

Despite our persistence in believing that restaurants, bars, and our work places are “public,” they are actually private property that the owners open up to the public. Business owners must follow laws to ensure that food they sell is safe, it’s true, but that is where government interference in their business decisions should stop.

Voters should not decide for thousands of business owners whether or not patrons should be allowed to smoke in those private businesses. Let’s look at Mudlounge and Patton Alley Pub.

The owner of Mudlounge decided that their establishment would be smoke free. The owner of Patton Alley decided that their establishment would allow smoking. You, the patron, get to decide which place you’d rather go to for a drink. End of the story: both joints appear to be thriving, despite the different customer segments their smoking rules caters to.

If we pass this ballot measure, voters are making that business decision for every single small business owner in Springfield. The government should make laws to protect its citizens from unsanitary food preparation and handling because it is unreasonable to expect all restaurant owners to understand the intricacies of how diseases spread, how foods spoil, and how to avoid spoilage for all the ingredients they use in food preparation. But the choice to allow smoking or not should be up to the entrepreneur. If your favorite restaurant allows smoking and you don’t like it, you should stop going there and you must tell them why you will be taking your business elsewhere.

Just for the record, I am a non-smoker, and I’ve never been a smoker. I don’t like going out to eat and needing to shower and wash my clothes because we went to a restaurant that allows smoking any more than you do. But I don’t think it’s right nor is it capitalistically healthy for voters to make decisions for small businesses (or even for big businesses) that they can and should be making themselves based on how that relatively basic, binary decision will hurt or stimulate their bottom line. The government should keep its fingers out of this issue, and you should be involved in this issue by voting with your dollars and not in the voting booth.

A yes vote tomorrow says that you know better what business owners need to do to ensure the success of their business. For many voters, it also means a healthier Springfield. But people will continue to choose to smoke; despite all that we know about the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke, people still choose to do it. So instead of making a business decision in the ballot box tomorrow, make a decision on where you take your business. Don’t take that decision away from shop owners.

A no vote tomorrow says that you support local business and the sovereignty of the business owner in the sphere of their own business matters, and it means accepting personal responsibility for the effects of your patronage to certain food and drink establishments, not to mention other retail stores.

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Update: From KY3’s website: The smoking ban passed, “11,201 to 9,795. The ordinance will go into effect 60 days after the election results are certified.”

Edit June 4, 2012: First, go read 417 Magazine’s brief summary of what tomorrow’s vote entails. My views on this issue have not changed since I wrote this post. The one thing I would like to add is that I think servers lose big in restaurants where smoking is allowed. They cannot simply go find a job at a non-smoking restaurant or bar; it isn’t that easy, now more than ever. Would hazard pay mitigate their exposure to second-hand smoke? What are some other ways to compensate or protect servers if their restaurant owner decides to allow smoking? Let me know in the comments!

Image source: thanks to Whiskeygonebad on Flickr for licensing the image used above under a Creative Commons attribution-noncommercial-share alike license.

7 thoughts on “How to Support Local Businesses in Springfield

  1. Bernie

    07 Apr on 2011 at 7:20

    Hey Linden thanks for linking to my piece about why smoking bans are wrong.

    This is an interesting issue for me. I have been a pipe smoker for some 30 years and I had very little interest in politics for most of that time. Then I discovered through new laws regarding tobacco that my lack of interest didn’t prevent the ruling class from having an interest in me.

    I am now a lot better educated in political philosophy and especially economics and am considerably harder to fool.

    I’m now part of a growing worldwide movement with a purpose to roll back and expose the state for what it is.

  2. Dorothy Smith

    05 Apr on 2011 at 18:28

    I agree with you that it should be up to the owners discretion as to whether they want to allow beer in a theater or smoking in a public place. I think personal responsibility should be exercised.

  3. Mac Davis

    05 Apr on 2011 at 16:31

    I think these smoking bans are a dangerous fad. What happened to the American spirit of embracing freedom?

    Smoking may be the danger of the week, but what’s next? Where does government regulated health stop? Shall we outlaw sugar and butter next? As you may know, cardiac issues continue to surpass smoking related illnesses in killing Americans. Perhaps we can get our law-making bodies to outlaw dangerous products which have too much fat, sodium, or caloric content!

    Since diet alone is not enough to control some very common issues, perhaps we should have mandatory community exercise time each morning. We can all come together and have a community constable administer an physical training program which we’ll be required to attend. Admittedly, a few bad apples may choose to go to jail rather than be healthy, but that’s a small price to pay for a healthy society, right?

    When we get done, we’ll just need to tidy up an old song that’s just not worded quite right anymore. We’ll need to change a hackneyed old phrase to: “the land of the healthy and the home of the regulated.”

    I like to think. I like to have the choice to make a good or bad decision. I like freedom. When did I become an unusual American?

  4. patrick seth williams

    05 Apr on 2011 at 14:42

    Linden – What I wonder is if the issue really breaks down into an issue of the private property of the business versus the public space inside the business as easily as we like it to. If it does, then we can easily reject the idea that the government can regulate the interior “public” spaces of private establishments.

    I see it more as a private property of the establishment versus the private property of the person, whether that person be a patron or the owner or an employee of the business or someone that lives in close proximity (above especially) the business. If we contextualize it this way, does the government have more of a right to protect the property of the business or the property of the person?

    While this doesn’t necessarily change your argument that it is a matter of individual choice and responsibility in deciding whether or not to patronize an establishment that allows smoking, I think it does complicate it because it forces us to consider how the law works on both the body and the space.

  5. David Gross

    05 Apr on 2011 at 8:24

    Right on Linden. This is the same argument that I made several years ago when Springfield voted on the lite version of this bill, which–unfortunately–passed. The one thing that I will say in defense of the ban is at least it’s local. The smaller the venue, the more justification in restricting freedoms. After all, it’s much easier to move to Joplin than to leave the United States. That said, the ban is still a terrible idea and an infringement on business owners’ rights.

    If I still voted in Springfield, I’d vote against this one just like I did the last one, and unfortunately, I’d probably lose again.

    Let us know what happens.

  6. PointSpecial

    04 Apr on 2011 at 21:26

    I totally agree with voting no to the ban. They put one in place here in Illinois a couple of years ago and since then have done so in Wisconsin too, where I went to college.

    And though I’ve walked into bars and bowling alleys and not been overcome with smoke (which has been nice), I would much prefer there not to be a ban, but for the individual establishments to choose to do it themselves…

    The government doesn’t need to stick their noses in everybody’s business. What’s after smoking? What is the govt going to try to control next?

    Don’t get me wrong… I don’t – and haven’t ever – smoke. I don’t like it. I make conscious choices to avoid it. But it isn’t like I had no choices available to me that were non-smoking.

    That’s telling the businesses they don’t know what’s good for them… and it’s telling me as a consumer I don’t know what’s good for me.

    It’s like mandatory seat belt laws. I wear one because it’s safe, not because there’s some law telling me I need to.

  7. Jill

    04 Apr on 2011 at 18:29

    In the 5 years since I moved to DC, I’ve slowly experienced a smoking ban in DC, Maryland, and most recently in Virginia (and the UK, too!). I’ve also found that it’s allowed me to go to restaurants and bars that I wouldn’t have been able to frequent before due to my asthma. I definitely see your side, but I also think that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. It’s made the playing field equal, and if anything it’s given plenty of establishments more business.