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Posted on Sun, May 2, 2010 : 9 a.m.

Adapting to smoking ban's rules isn't crystal clear for Ann Arbor bars, restaurants

By Ronald Ahrens

Downtown Ann Arbor restaurants and bars found themselves under a cloud of uncertainty in the first hours of the statewide smoking ban on Saturday.

Michigan’s Smoke-Free Air Law went into effect at 6 a.m. At least 300 bars and restaurants in Washtenaw County are switching to smoke-free environments. The smoking ban also extends to other public spaces such as government buildings.

Arena 02 - Copy.JPG

Gordon Loll and employee Jessica Westerhof welcome the smoking ban to the Arena Sports Bar. Ronald Ahrens | For

At the Arena Sports Bar & Grill on Washington Street, a lone patron was just paying for his drink and leaving with a guitar case as President Barack Obama’s commencement address ended at 12.13 p.m.

Meanwhile, co-owner Gordon Loll said he was waiting for the first patron who tried to light up.

A leftover sign outside the Arena advertised Friday night’s “Smokefest,” featuring $1 pints of beer.

“It was nice, it was fine,” Loll said of the previous evening’s big sendoff to smoking. “The fire alarm didn’t go off, so that was good.”

He said most of the approximately 200 guests cleared out well before the 2 a.m. closing time in order to be ready for this morning’s commencement exercises.

Admitting his throat hurt when he woke up Saturday morning, Loll said he sees the smoking ban as a way of leveling the playing field for area establishments.

“I welcome it for my personal health.”

At the Fleetwood Diner, employee Tami Simpson was just seating three patrons at a sidewalk table as Marine One lifted the President Obama from the University of Michigan’s field hockey field, making an impressive if brief appearance on the horizon.

Simpson said uncertainty about the new law’s requirements was leading patrons across Ashley Street to smoke. The law isn’t specific about distance requirements.

Simpson took the brunch order from Wes Chin, Cristin McArdle and Joel Segal, all graduate students in the U-M School of Public Health. They had just come from Michigan Stadium.

Chin and McArdle said they were accustomed to smoke-free environments before arriving in Ann Arbor for their studies. Becoming regulars at the Fleetwood had required them to adapt to cigarette smoke, but the quality of the diner’s food made it worth the trouble.

“It’s great that I don’t have to Febreze my clothes now,” said Segal, referring to the household odor elimination product.

Segal noted that had done his undergraduate study in Chapel Hill, N.C., before that city went smoke-free.

A few blocks away on Liberty Street, Kirk Crowner was just finishing a Marlboro while holding a takeout box from Afternoon Delight, which had been smoke-free prior to the ban.

“I really don’t care for the ban at all,” said Crowner, a Grand Ledge resident who was in town to visit a friend.

He thought the previous divide between smoking and nonsmoking places created a niche market.

“It’s not the best for the economy,” he said.

Moments later he was joined by Carrie Louise Mather, who had recently kicked the habit.

“Now that I’ve quit, it’s very convenient for me,” Mather said. “It’s nice to go to a bar that’s non-smoking.”

Ronald Ahrens is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Wed, May 5, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

I think the primary issue for people opposed to the ban, smoker and non smokers, is the issue of property rights. We also live in a free market society, or so i once thought, so the market can dictate what the people want. It is pretty easy to cope with the banthough, just dedicate an outdoor space that is not an entrance or exit, don't send waitstaff out there, allow people to take their food and drink out there, and they can smoke to their heart's content. Also, Casinos in Detroit got the exemption not because of windsor which has gone smoke free already, but the Indian Casinos in the state which are not required to follow state law. one has to think that blind pigs and house parties should see an uptick in activity.

John Q

Wed, May 5, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

"I'm a non-smoker and also think the government should keep their hands off of small business owners and allow them to make their own decisions." Does that mean you're also opposed to health inspections and health codes for bars and restaurants?


Wed, May 5, 2010 : 10:25 a.m.

I don't particularly like breathing other people's smoke either, but I also would not choose to go to a restaurant that allowed smoking. I'm a non-smoker and also think the government should keep their hands off of small business owners and allow them to make their own decisions.


Wed, May 5, 2010 : 9:07 a.m.

I can see both sides of the argument of the smoking ban. Being a former/reformed smoker, I do agree with the smoking ban to an extent. I do feel that the smokers should be allowed to smoke outside of an establishment so many feet away from the entrance. Since the state has made it illegal to smoke in a public establishments, why not take it a step further and ban smoking in vehicles that transport children? I feel absolutely terrible for the babies and little kids that are forced to breath in the toxic smoke from their parents. Its not fair that they dont get a choice to breath smoke infested or fresh air.


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 11:24 a.m.

I agree proudtobeme. I plan on visiting Ashley's soon, and I can't wait to go bowling again! It always amazed me with how large the air volume is inside a bowling alley how disgusting you smell after only an hour inside one. Just to cheap to properly run the ventilation/HVAC I guess. And I will no longer refuse to visit other establishments when suggested by friends... this is a long list of bars I simply would not / could not visit because they hurt my lungs and throat and required me to shower as soon as I got home, and quarantine my clothing. This list includes the arena, Heidelberg, alley bar, old town, the den, and many more. FINALLY THIS MUCH NEEDED LAW IS PASSED.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 2:27 p.m.

Every non-smoker on these boards should make a commitment to go to an establishment that you have not gone to b/c of the smoke-at least once a week-more if you have the time and money. My family celebrated this weekend by going to the bowling ally. We have a list of restaurants that we have not gone to in a long time. We are going to start at the top of the list and visit a place every week (maybe every other) until we have the list crossed off. I can't tell you how nice it is to have more options to choose from now! The other benefit is that I don't have to come home and take a shower and do laundry!


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 2:25 p.m.

run for your lives that man across the street is exhaling poison. he is taking away my option to choose to be perfect. help.

Matt Cooper

Mon, May 3, 2010 : 1:41 p.m.

I just wonder why it's so hard for smokers to understand that their choice to poison their own lungs does not allow them to poison mine by default. Yes, you have the right to smoke to your hearts content. Yes, you have the right to light up. But you do not have the right to make the whole world a place where I, as a non-smoker, am required to either stay locked up in my own home for fear of breathing the poison you exhale or 'suck it up' and inhale many carcinogenic chemicals simply to preserve your so-called right to smoke wherever you wish. What is it that makes you smokers so self-important? My right to go out in public with a set of clean, healthy lungs free of drugs and chemicals that cause emphasema is more important (as society just told you by the passing of this law) than your right to kill me, my wife, my children, my parents, my friends and aquaintences (sp?) and co-workers with your noxious fumes. Get over yourselves. You smokers are in the minority and do not have the right nor the power to force society to allow you to kill people with your cigarrettes. Get over yourselves!


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 12:03 p.m.

@RAM: So, you think the minority has the right to poison everyone around them? Seriously? That's the "right" you are trying to defend? Every argument against the smoking ban boils down to this: "When I feed my drug addiction, I'd rather poison the people around me than subject myself to the slight inconvenience of moving to a safe distance." That's all this has ever been about. Not "freedom," not "rights," not some paranoid, slippery-slope argument about government control. It's about being lazy and inconsiderate.

Jake C

Mon, May 3, 2010 : 10:09 a.m.

I have a hard time taking a group seriously when they think the choice to smoke in restaurants is on the same level as women having the right to vote, or minority ethnic groups receiving equal rights in housing and employment. Guess what smokers, you can choose not to be a smoker for an hour or two, unlike those other groups.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

Dave66: First off, I have never smoked before. But I'm appalled at how you think nonsmokers can dictate the lives of a "minority" group because you are the "majority". While our Democracy is based on majority rule, we still have minority rights!


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

a2miguy...unfortunately for smokers, we are not going away. And we don't want smokers to go away....just their cancer sticks.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

a2miguy: Funny, non-smokers just want smokers to go away. And since there are more of us than there are of you, guess what happened? :) You know, it's that "democracy" thing, the one where the majority rules. Besides, you completely missed the point of my post. Imagine my surprise.


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 8:55 a.m.

@Dave66 - That's the silliest thing I've ever heard. No smoker does so just to force you to share their smoke. What we'd really rather happen is for you to just go away.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 11:57 p.m.

The ban takes away the "freedom" of smokers to poison the people around them. OK, fine, let's go with that. The drug of choice for smokers is tobacco, and the by-product of their drug use is smoke. They feel they should have the "freedom" to subject the people around them to their second-hand smoke. My drug of choice is beer. The by-product of my drug consumption is urine. Fair is fair, if I have to consume the by-product their drug use, then they should have to consume mine. I should have the freedom to urinate on smokers. After all, they want to force me to consume the by-product of their drug, isn't it fair of them to consume the by-product of MY drug?


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 11:06 p.m.

even as a non-smoker who hated smoke, there were few places that i consciously wouldn't go to cuz of the smoke. one of those places was knights and i do look forward to going there again. i probably need to wait awhile for it to air out though.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 10:27 p.m.

Not being able to smoke outside is just plain STUPID. If the whole universe of air that makes up the outside of any establishment isn't enough for non-smokers to breath easy then they need to get their smoke free heads examined.

John Q

Sun, May 2, 2010 : 10:17 p.m.

Legislating away freedom? I would say that the law grants more freedom than it took away. No longer will a minority be able to pollute the air that the rest of us had to breath when we visited bars and restaurants.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 9:38 p.m.

OK, what's the problem? Smoking tobacco will lead to lung cancer and kill the smoker. Non-smokers will also be harmed by this activity. It's a good thing that people can now patronize favorite bars without exposing themselves to tobacco smoke. Smokers continue to be free to slowly and painfully kill themselves in private - just not in a way harmful to others. What's the problem?


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 9:09 p.m.

Individual Restaurants should be able to decide if they want to allow smoking or not. If they really thought that banning smokers wouldn't decrease revenues, why isn't anyone doing it already? Government knows best, right?


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 9 p.m.

Congratulations on legislating away another freedom.

Thomas Laprade

Sun, May 2, 2010 : 8:20 p.m.

If the public was honestly and truthfully informed about the effects of second-hand smoke, there would be fewer no-smoking laws in this country. A little smoke from a handful of crushed leaves and some paper that is mixed with the air of a decently ventilated venue is going to harm or kill you? There has never been a single study showing that exposure to the low levels of smoke found in bars and restaurants with decent modern ventilation and filtration systems kills or harms anyone. As to the annoyance of smoking, a compromise between smokers and non-smokers can be reached, through setting a quality standard and the use of modern ventilation technology. Air ventilation can easily create a comfortable environment that removes not just passive smoke, but also and especially the potentially serious contaminants that are independent from smoking. Thomas Laprade Two good sources of information

Edward R. Murrow's ghost

Sun, May 2, 2010 : 7:52 p.m.

The casinos were exempted because there was concern that casino traffic would simply go to Windsor. That the Motor City Casino is an Indian casino was a factor for that casino only but, in the end, it was about fear of losing business to Canada.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 6:34 p.m.

Ron, why are the Detroit casinos exempt? Are they all connected with Native American Indian laws? I believe one was affiliated with a tribal unit of govt, but the land is not on a reservation. The other two? I was not aware the Detroit casinos were tied in with tribal casinos. There was a statewide vote to get them authorized. Though I agree with the law, I think its flawed by exempting the casinos.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 5:15 p.m.

Chicago, Los Angeles, and now (finally) Ann Arbor. This is not some type of mass conspiracy, rather a fight for our collective health! Chicago businesses, in most cases, doubled or tripled business volumes after enforcing a smoking ban. Breath folks, breath!

Wally P

Sun, May 2, 2010 : 4:41 p.m.

I certainly don't intend to defend people who blow smoke in other people's faces, but I hasten to point out to the previous commenters that the crowds of the bars on the first day of the ban is probably attributable to the fact that it was graduation -- the bars and downtown restaurants are always busy on this day and this can hardly be evidence that the smoking ban will never have any kind of negative impact on any business. On that note, I wonder what feedback you would get if you went to some of the bars that don't serve food and interviewed those employees. I was at one such bar last night and the employees were very upset about the ban and foresaw a major hit to their business and personal income from tips. Going around at noon, on the first day of the ban, on the day of U of M's graduation, to a restaurant bar that was already 50% non-smoking -- is this the best test of the impact of this law and how it will affect the downtown economy?


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 4:26 p.m.

Good law, long overdue. I think smoking should be done away with completely, especially now that the health care train is rolling. Perhaps all taxes on cigarettes should go right to health care. Does anyone know the rationale of exempting the Detroit casinos? Is it only restaurants and bars? Isn't it all buildings? I do not gamble, but I have visited them and whew! Talk about air pollution.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.

Also, it would have been nice for Ronald Ahrens to use the article to clarify the ban instead of just reporting on the confusion surrounding it.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 3:03 p.m.

RonAnnArbor, it's actually not that simple. As a smoker I'm not sure how many feet I need to be away from either the building in question or the entire property line without risking a fine. Even in places where I know my smoke isn't blowing into people's paths it could be off limits. The law states there needs to be signs posted in non smoking areas but I don't know how many places will immediately become compliant with the signage.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 2:15 p.m.

As a non-smoker and asthmatic, I'm extremely happy the law has finally gone into effect. Yesterday I went to Fraser's for the first time in decades. I plan on going to Banfield's, The Arena and the other places I couldn't before. I also plan to go bowling again, playing pool and darts at Aubree's.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, May 2, 2010 : 1:18 p.m.

Went to a club last night - one that I haven't been to before. The place was packed. The wait staff was constantly busy. I'm hoping that's a sign that even bars in relatively sparse areas are going to thrive with all the new business. For decades, they've been catering to the 20% who smoke.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 1:07 p.m.

People should be able to smoke, no problem with that. But I don't want to breathe that garbage. If I goto get a beer at the Arena, I don't want to breathe second hand smoke.

Tom Joad

Sun, May 2, 2010 : 1 p.m.

But now we have to walk through a gauntlet of smoke with all the smokers on the sidewalk. The ban should include city sidewalks next. Nothing is more obnoxious that lighting a cigarette on a sidewalk and having to walk behind a cloud of cigarette smoke.

walt w

Sun, May 2, 2010 : 12:16 p.m.

I used to laugh about all the 'second hand smoke' rhetoric when I was a heavy that I am a non smoker with smoking related health issues...I can first hand tell folks that second hand smoke is a huge health problem for non smokers. I go into a bar or restaurant where there is a lot of smoke, I hack and wheeze just as if I just smoked my own. Smokers don't realize the damage they are doing to others. I gladly support non smoking establishments, but I don't believe it is the governments business to dictate. People do not HAVE TO work or visit places that allow smoking...I don't go to strip clubs, I have my personal beliefs about their morality...that doesn't mean I support a ban on them. Some people don't like XXX movies, but the theaters are not banned, those folks just don't go...smoe people are vegitarians, yet there are hundreds of 'steak houses' and 'burger joints', vegans just don't go to them. Why should it be different for smokers and non smokers?

Old West Sider

Sun, May 2, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

It's clear to me what the law is What's the problem,? there will be no smoking where food is consumed indoors or outdoors and that will include any outdoor public picnic where food is being served... Including Picnics at the German Park...Period.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 11:46 a.m.

the quality of the food at the fleetwood?


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 10:23 a.m.

It's great not to have to think "Am I wearing anything dry-clean only?" before heading into Ashley's. Because if the answer was yes, sometimes I'd go to Red Hawk instead.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 10:02 a.m.

Went back to Ashley's after staying away for a long time due to smoke. Great to be back, could actually see from the front to the back without the haze.


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

Some places will probably see former patrons return. I am looking forward to a Fraser burger after steering clear of the place for many years because the smoke was so bad. Also looking forward to dropping in at Ashley's down town. I quit going in there for the same reason. I think the only place on State that may see a drop in business would be Red Hawk, which has been smoke free for a long time but will now have competition.

David Briegel

Sun, May 2, 2010 : 7:47 a.m.

Mr Loll said his throat hurt. Imagine. An honest statement contrary to the statements that smoke and second hand smoke are harmless. Simple enforcement. No ashtrays. No service if you smoke. Plain and simple and easy to handle for everyone!!


Sun, May 2, 2010 : 7:24 a.m.

I chuckled when I read the quote by Mr. Seagal. You won't need "Fabreeze any longer". Did the Fleetwood go "grill-less" and "grease-less" as well. Slowly the govt. moves.....step by step....foot by foot.........inch by inch......Niagra Falls. Ak, Ak, Ak